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Colombia to return wrongly-deported US teen

Jakadrien Turner in a photo provided by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. (Reuters)


Colombia plans to deliver an American teenager who was mistakenly deported from the United States to the US embassy in Bogota, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

The 15-year-old -- who apparently speaks no Spanish -- was deported to Colombia last May after convincing a US judge and Colombian officials she was a 21-year-old illegal immigrant following her arrest in Texas for theft.

Colombian authorities are investigating why their consular officials in Houston issued her a temporary passport and how she obtained documents in Bogota that gave her civil registration and access to employment.

The ministry said authorities had located the girl, Jakadrien Larise Turner, after her US family reported her missing. She had entered a government protection program called the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF).

Turner was deported to Colombia on May 23, 2011, the same day she arrived at El Dorado International Airport in Bogota, where she was met by officials of the Department of Administrative Security.

The confusion appears to have resulted from Turner using a fake identity as Tika Lanay Cortez, a 21-year-old illegal migrant from Bogota.

In the weeks that followed, everyone who dealt with her -- from the lawyer at her trial to the Colombian diplomat who met her prior to deportation -- never suspected she was another person.

"At no time during these criminal proceedings was her identity determined to be false," a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency told AFP in Washington.

She said the agency -- the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that polices US borders -- was "fully and immediately investigating this matter in order to expeditiously determine the facts of this case."

Turner ran away from her Dallas area home in 2010 when her parents were getting a divorce, her grandmother, Lorene Turner, told local television station WFAA.

"How do you deport a teenager and send her to Colombia without a passport, without anything?" she asked, implying that law enforcement agencies had failed to thoroughly verify the teenager's identity.

She said she had spent hours trawling through social networking sites until she discovered through Facebook that her granddaughter was in Colombia, going by the names of Tika SoloToolong and Tika Confero.

WFAA reported that Turner was in a detention facility in Colombia without providing further details.

Turner's last wall post on Facebook, in mid-November, peppered with spelling mistakes, claimed she was "in a relationship with same man I broke up with ... he show me that he is serious with me, an so on, so ok lol!!!!!"

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said criminal database and fingerprint checks it carried out during the deportation process had "revealed no information to invalidate" the girl's claimed identity.