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Runaway Teen Turns Up in Colombia after Accidental Deportation

2505997_761e2a76_01092012.jpgLorene Turner spent hours on the internet trying to find her missing granddaughter, 14 year-old Jakadrien Turner. She says she always remained hopeful that she would find Jakadrien, but she probably never expected to find her in Colombia. In a bizarre saga stretching out for more than a year, an African-American teenager from Dallas, Texas who speaks no Spanish found herself in the custody of immigration authorities being deported to South America. The Colombian government held her in detention for several weeks, and she reportedly headed home on January 6.

Jakadrien ran away from home in the fall of 2010. Her parents had recently divorced and her grandfather had died, and she was distraught. She made her way to Houston, where she was arrested for shoplifting in April 2011. She gave a fake name to police, which turned out to belong to a 22 year-old undocumented Colombian immigrant with multiple arrest warrants. Police turned her over to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who apparently never verified her identity. They subsequently deported her to Colombia.

With help from police, Lorene Turner finally tracked Jakadrien to Colombia through Facebook messages from her. Jakadrien was apparently working as a cleaner in someone’s home. U.S. officials asked Colombian police to pick her up and take her to the American embassy. Instead, police took her to a detention facility. She reportedly remained there for at least a month.

This case raises many questions, and perhaps the most glaring question is how immigration officials could mistake a 14 year-old American who speaks no Spanish for a 22 year-old Colombian national. No details are available as to exactly how Jakadrien’s deportation case proceeded, but the unfortunate truth is that detention of American citizens by ICE is not at all uncommon.

American citizens have found themselves detained for days or even weeks because of mistaken identity or an incorrect entry in one of the many databases used by ICE and the Department of Homeland Security. ICE issued a statement saying it “takes these allegations very seriously” and promising to conduct a full investigation. An ICE official speaking to Dallas’ WFAA News also noted that people sometimes provide false information to ICE for “ulterior motives.” The official did not make it clear how such an accusation applies to Jakadrien’s case.

The ICE official’s statement brings to mind an important feature of U.S. immigration law, which is the harsh way in which it treats any deliberate misstatement of fact. Providing false information on an application or petition for immigration benefits can by itself be grounds for removal from the country. Applicants with no criminal history and who have otherwise completed all the requirements to gain legal status can lose everything if they intentionally made a false statement at some point. Perhaps Jakadrien simply made a poor choice of a fake name.

The New Jersey immigration lawyers at Samuel C. Berger, P.C. help immigrants seeking visas to come to, or remain in, the United States. To schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys today, contact us online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

Police, Prosecutors Advocate for Lebanese Immigrant Who Helped Crack a Murder Case, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 5, 2012
Flight School Owner Arrested for Alleged Immigration Fraud, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 27, 2011
Federal Officials Launch Immigration Scam Education Campaign, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 22, 2011
Photo credit: Gloria of Colombia, © Copyright Andy Farrington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.