(DALLAS) — A 14-year-old American citizen has been living in a Central American country since last year after being deported by U.S. officials.
Jakadrien Turner had been missing from her home in Dallas since Nov. 19, 2010, when she was picked up by police in Houston for theft. She had no identifying documentation with her. During police questioning, officials said Turner gave the name Tika Lanay Cortez (a name Immigration and Customs Enforcement contends she simply made up), and told them she was a 21-year-old from Colombia.
She continued to maintain that identity throughout the investigation process, and told officials she had no legal status in the U.S., an ICE statement said. A number of database searches, which included checking her fingerprints, turned up nothing that contradicted her story, and according to ICE, they had no way of knowing that her story wasn’t true. A missing persons report was filed with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, but an ICE spokesperson said that didn’t show up in the course of the investigation.
An ICE official told ABC News that people who do enter the U.S. illegally often have no documentation whatsoever to identify them or a country of origin. So, they took Turner at her word when she insisted she was a 21-year-old Colombian citizen.
“[Turner] maintained this false identity throughout her local criminal proceedings in Texas where she was represented by a defense attorney and ultimately convicted,” an ICE statement said. “At no time during these criminal proceedings was her identity determined to be false.”
Once she was convicted, she was handed over to ICE, where she still said she was a Colombian citizen, even while being interviewed by a representative from the Colombian consulate. Eventually, the Colombian authorities agreed she was a Colombian citizen and authorized her deportation, providing her with full Colombian citizenship upon arrival in the country.
During her time in Colombia, Turner posted often on Facebook, under the name “TiKa SoloToolonq,” occasionally referencing her life in Houston and Dallas, and speaking of efforts to learn Spanish. She never indicated any attempts to move back to the United States, and while she often complained of boredom and unhappiness in Colombia, she appeared to be making a life there.
Her family says they don’t understand how something like this could have happened.
“I’m flabbergasted,” her mother, Johnisa Turner, told ABC News affiliate WFAA. “Something definitely has to change.”
Her grandmother, Lorene Turner, was the one who eventually found Jakadrian on Facebook, after months of searching.
“They didn’t do their work,” she told WFAA. “How do you deport a teenager and send her to Colombia without a passport, without anything?”
WFAA reports Turner is being held in a detention center in Colombia, and Colombian authorities refuse to turn her over. ICE officials say they can’t confirm those reports.
Still, her grandmother says she’s optimistic.
“I feel like she will come home,” Lorene told WFAA. “I just need help and prayer.”
For their part, ICE says they are investigating the matter. It’s unclear what Turner’s motives might have been for providing police with a false identity. They say they take their “responsibility to verify the immigration status of individuals in the agency’s custody very seriously.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Barbie Latza Nadeau, Margot Haddad, Livia Borghese and Angela Dewan, CNN
Ray Sanchez, CNN
Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN