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Mom of teen who was mistakenly deported files federal suit

Jakadrien Turner is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
Jakadrien Turner is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.Reuters file

The mother of a 15-year-old Texas girl who was mistakenly deported to Colombia has filed suit against Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

In the suit, Johnisa Turner contends that her daughter, Jakadrien Turner, now 16, gave police officers a false name – Tika Cortez – when she was arrested on April 2, 2011, for shoplifting, a lie that triggered a series of events that landed her in Colombia's capital city, where she lived in shelters for seven months and became pregnant.

Unbeknownst to Jakadrien, a 22-year-old Colombian named Tika Cortez was in the system -- court documents do not specify whether she was wanted by Colombian authorities or had been flagged as being in the United States illegally.

Jakadrien’s mother says her daughter's false claim should not have mattered. Jakadrien was listed on the National Child Runaway list and her birth certificate is filed in Texas. Additionally, Johnisa Turner says, her daughter is African American, does not speak Spanish and appeared to be a younger teenager.

According to court documents: “Knowing it’s commonplace for people who come in contact with ICE officials to sometimes give a fake name in order to avoid more serious punishment, it is still unclear why ICE officials failed to confirm (Jakadrien’s) identity with fingerprint analysis, genetically-specific markers that suggest a person’s origin, or other methods more definitive than just having a name and no documentation proof of her alleged Colombian citizenship during these hearings.”

15-year-old American girl mistakenly deported to Colombia

The suit lays out a grim narrative of Jakadrien’s life the year before she was arrested.

In November 2010, she was lured from her home by a “child predator” – her relatives say she had been acting out after the death of a close grandparent. The man beat her, trafficked her and forced her to sell drugs until she managed to escape later that spring, but that too proved to be a difficult time. As she made her way home, she slept in bus stations and shoplifted.

When she was caught shoplifting at a mall in Houston, “she was unsure if officers were aware of her previous illegal activity, so she gave them a false name,” court documents say.

Jakadrien was detained for two months, April and May of 2011. She didn’t call home because she “could not find the words to explain that she was in ICE custody and facing deportation. She did not believe that her family would believe that to be even possible,” according to court documents. Her family says she received no legal assistance.

ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – confirmed the facts of the case to the Los Angeles Times but insisted officials followed proper procedure.

“She maintained this false identity throughout her local criminal proceedings in Texas where she was represented by a defense attorney and ultimately convicted by the State criminal court,” said an ICE statement provided to the Times. “At no time during these criminal proceedings was her identity determined to be false.”

The Associated Press reviewed more than two dozen phone calls while Jakadrien was in jail and found this may have been true. Not once during these phone calls did she complain of not having ties to Colombia, the AP reported. Rather, she identified herself as Tika Cortez and discussed renewing her green card, the AP said.

Mistakenly deported teen: ‘I made a lot of horrible mistakes’

In late May, Jakadrien boarded a government plane for Bogota, where her mother said she knew no one.

“When she was released, a stranger saw that she was crying and seemed out of place,” the documents say. “He approached her and realized that she did not speak any Spanish. He guided her to a social welfare program titled ‘Welcome Home,’ run by the Colombian government that helped her get a shelter.”

She lived in shelters across the city for seven months, during which she became pregnant by a 29-year-old man, the documents say. 

Her family continued to search for her, and in December 2011, her grandmother found information on Facebook leading her to believe that her granddaughter was in Colombia. When she contacted the State Department, officials there reportedly confirmed that Jakadrien had been mistakenly deported.

For months, despite the family's asking officials to bring home their child, Jakadrien remained in Colombia, the court documents say. Her mother says it wasn't until the family turned to the press that she was whisked home within days of the reports.


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