It was a circumstance one would expect to see in a Hollywood blockbuster, but for Jakadrien Turner, the nightmare was real. Now, to the joy of her family, it is over. The 15-year old was released by the Colombian government on Friday and is on her way back home to Dallas after she was mistakenly deported to the South American country last April.
The girl’s mother, Johnisa Turner, told the Associated Press she would have "a gazillion questions" for her daughter, who had been missing since she ran away from home in November 2010.
"I am very excited," Turner told the AP. "I feel like a weight has been lifted. But at the same time, I won't just feel really, really good until I'm able to touch her."
Jakadrien somehow ended up in Houston, where her ordeal began. In April 2011, the teen was arrested for misdemeanor theft and gave police a fake name — Tika Lanay Cortez — and claimed to be a Columbian woman born in 1990. Houston police turned Jakadrien over to the local sheriff’s office, where she was booked for the theft. Eventually a sheriff’s office official recommended that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials step in a return the teen to Colombia.
"Never during that criminal proceeding did she purport to be someone else, or say she was a U.S. citizen," Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokeswoman, told The Los Angeles Times. "There was nothing to invalidate her claim. This is someone who’s under oath in a criminal proceeding. The criminal justice system did not know she was a minor."
Nonetheless, Jakadrien's family has questioned why U.S. officials didn't do more to verify her identity.
"She looks like a kid, she acts like a kid. How could they think she wasn't a kid?" Lorene Turner, the teen’s grandmother, told the AP on Thursday. Turner has said that her granddaughter speaks no Spanish. After months of searching, Turner tracked down the teen in early November on Facebook. Family members were then put in contact with the U.S. embassy in Bogota to provide proof of Jakadrien's identity.
It is unknown whether the teen will be charged with falsifying her identity in a criminal process upon her return to the States.
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