US family aghast as teen is deported to Colombia

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The Independent US

Like many a teenage runaway, Jakadrien Turner wasn't exactly forthcoming when police in Houston arrested her for shoplifting in early April.

Instead of giving officers her correct name and address, the enterprising 14-year-old claimed to be one Tika Lanay Cortez, a Colombian woman (and, it seems, a casual acquaintance) who had been born in 1990.

The lie was designed to prevent police from returning Jakadrien to her family in Dallas, 250 miles away. She had walked out on them, without warning, the previous November, shortly after her grandfather's death.

On those grounds, at least, it was an unrivalled success. Jakadrien did not end up being sent back to Dallas. Instead, a bright spark at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] department decided that she should be deported to Bogota.

Jakadrien's real identity was not revealed throughout the months that her case was subsequently dragged through the Texas court system. Nor did it emerge when officials from the Colombian consulate interviewed her, despite the fact that she is unable to speak Spanish.

The mix-up emerged only several months later when her desperate grandmother Lorene stumbled upon a Facebook account she had opened under another false name. Lorene contacted Dallas police in November, who got in touch with the authorities in Bogota.

Lorene yesterday described the saga as "a big mistake someone made", and told the Associated Press she is seeking an explanation as to why the US authorities didn't bother to verify the girl's identity before deporting her.

It is not known whether Jakadrien had any fake ID, or whether both the ICE and the Colombian authorities, who issued her with a temporary passport, simply decided to take her at her word when she claimed to be Ms Cortez, who had overstayed her visa.

After Jakadrien had originally gone missing, her information was placed on record with the National Centre for Missing or Exploited Children. But those records were never checked during the deportation process.

Bizarrely, Jakadrien seems to have led a charmed existence after landing in Bogota. Local authorities said she had enrolled in the country's "welcome home" programme, for deported illegal migrants. It saw her given food, shelter, psychological support, and a starter job in a local call centre.