(DALLAS) — Jakadrien Turner, the American teen who was mistakenly deported to Colombia, was put on a plane Friday bound for home in Texas.
“She is on a plane back to the U.S. as we speak,” Ray Jackson, a lawyer for Turner’s family, told ABC News.
The lawyer said that while the family is thrilled, they are also planning lawsuits.
“We are exploring a civil rights law suit against ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), Houston Police and Colombian government… There is an egregious injustice and the ball has been dropped. ICE is the main culprit, but there are many parts of it where there is negligence,” he said.
Turner, who turned 15 while in Colombia, was taken into custody by the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare on Dec. 1 after authorities determined she was a minor and an American.
During her time in Colombia, Turner was included in a government program called Welcome Home, which provided her with counseling, shelter and a job at a call center, according to the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare.
She 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 and was listed as “in a relationship” on Facebook.
Turner’s bizarre adventure came to an end after her grandmother scoured the social networking site until she found her granddaughter and alerted authorities.
The teen was originally picked up by police in Houston for theft on Nov. 19, 2010, marking the last day her family had seen or heard from 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 with no identification. She continued to maintain her alias throughout the investigation 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.
Once she was convicted, Turner was handed over to ICE, to whom she maintained 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.
Her family says they don’t understand how something like this could have happened. “They didn’t do their work,” the girl’s grandmother, Lorene Turner told ABC affiliate WFAA. “How do you deport a teenager and send her to Colombia without a passport, without anything?”
ICE says it is investigating the matter. It’s unclear what Turner’s motives might have been for providing police with a false identity. The agency insists it takes the, “responsibility to verify the immigration status of individuals in the agency’s custody very seriously.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Dave Gilbert, CNN
Kareem Khadder, CNN
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
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