Federal immigration officials said Wednesday that a United States born teenager was erroneously deported to Colombia from Houston last year. Jakadrien Larise Turner ran away from home in the fall of 2010 when she was just 14 years old. When the teen ran away, her grandmother said, she could not speak Spanish. The Texas teenager used an assumed identity, reinventing herself as Tika Lanay Cortez. When she was arrested for shoplifting last year, Tika lied to police about her identity and gave the fake name, and she claimed to be 21 years old. She had no documents to establish her identity, and authorities never suspected she was anyone other than who she claimed to be.
Unfortunately, her fake identity was the real identity of a 22 year old Colombian citizen who was in the United States illegally. The girl was sentenced as an adult to eight days in jail for the theft charge. Houston police ran her alias through ICE’s Secure Communities program, which is designed to identify people in the country illegally, the name was flagged as belonging to an undocumented immigrant.
ICE officials state that they were contacted first by Houston authorities who told them they had an undocumented immigrant in their custody. ICE agents arrested Tika, who still claimed she was from Colombia, and federal immigration proceedings were held to deport her.
ICE said criminal database and fingerprint checks it carried out during the deportation process had ”revealed no information to invalidate” the girl’s claimed identity. In the weeks that followed, no one suspected she was anyone other than who she claimed to be, including the lawyer at her trial and the Colombian diplomat who met her before her deportation. During proceedings to have her removed from the U.S., Colombian officials interviewed her. Once she was in that country, she was given full Colombian citizenship. It is unclear when she learned to speak Spanish.
According to USCIS spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez, “As is standard protocol, criminal database searches and biometric verification [fingerprint checks] were conducted and revealed no information to invalidate her claims.” Gonzalez said “She was ultimately ordered removed from the U.S. by a Department of Justice immigration judge.”
Tika was then deported to Colombia, where she remains today. She is currently being held in a Colombian detention facility, and Colombian officials have refused to release her, even after the U.S. Embassy in Bagota asked police to return her to U.S. authorities. No reason for her detention was given.