EL PASO, Texas — A 15-year-old Texas girl who was deported in May to South America after claiming to be an illegal immigrant was headed back to the United States on Friday, Colombian and U.S. officials said.
Jakadrien Lorece Turner was turned over to the U.S. embassy Friday, a high-level official in Colombia's ministry of foreign affairs told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because ministry policy does not allow employees to be quoted by name.
The State Department said she left Colombia and was on her way to the U.S., but would give no further details.
Jakadrien's mother, Johnisa Turner, told The Associated Press she'll be meeting her daughter when she arrives in Dallas and said she was expecting a call from her. Turner said she has "a gazillion questions" for Jakadrien.
"I am very excited," Turner said. "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. Until I'm able to put her in my arms."
The girl's family has questioned why U.S. officials didn't do more to verify her identify.
U.S. immigration officials have said they were investigating, but insist they followed procedure and found nothing to indicate that the girl wasn't — as she claimed — a woman from Colombia illegally living in the U.S.
The teen, who ran away from home more than a year ago, was recently found in Bogota, Colombia, by the Dallas Police Department with help from Colombian and U.S. officials.
According to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the girl was enrolled in the country's "Welcome Home" program after she arrived there. She was given shelter, psychological assistance and a job at a call center, a statement from the agency said. When the Colombian government discovered she was a U.S. citizen and a minor, it put her under the care of a welfare program, the statement said.
Johnisa Turner said Jakadrien is a U.S. citizen who was born in Dallas and was not fluent in Spanish. She said neither she nor the teen's father had ties to Colombia. Jakadrien's grandmother, Lorene Turner, called the deportation a "big mistake somebody made."
"She looks like a kid, she acts like a kid. How could they think she wasn't a kid?" Lorene Turner asked on Thursday.
Jakadrien's family said she left home in November 2010. Houston police said the girl was arrested on April 2, 2011, for misdemeanor theft in that city and claimed to be Tika Lanay Cortez, a Colombian woman born in 1990.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday that the teen claimed to be Cortez throughout the criminal proceedings in Houston and the ensuing deportation process in which an immigration judge ultimately ordered her back to Colombia.
The ICE official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to not being authorized to discuss additional details of the case, said the teenager was interviewed by a representative from the Colombian consulate and that country's government issued her a travel document to enter Colombia. The ICE official said standard procedure before any deportation is to coordinate with the other country in order to establish that person is from there.
The girl was given Colombian citizenship upon arriving there, the ICE official said.
The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Jakadrien was issued travel documents at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency and with information submitted by U.S. officials. Colombian officials are investigating what kind of verification was conducted by its Houston consulate to issue the temporary passport.
It was not clear if the teen might be charged upon her return for falsifying her identity in a criminal process.
Dallas Police detective C'mon (pronounced Simone) Wingo, the detective in charge of the case, explained that in August she was contacted by the girl's grandmother, who said Jakadrien had posted "kind of disturbing" messages on a Facebook account where she goes by yet another name.
Wingo said the girl was located in early November through her use of a computer to log into Facebook. Relatives were then put into contact with the U.S. embassy in Bogota to provide pictures and documents to prove Jakadrien's identity.
Lorene Turner, the grandmother of the girl, said she has spent a lot of time tracking down Jakadrien, whose family nickname is Kay-Kay.
At her work as a hairstylist, "in between customers I'd get on the computer looking for Kay-Kay, I was obsessed," she said.
Johnisa Turner said her daughter, a freshman at a Dallas high school, was experimenting with different hairstyles and clothes but "wasn't a problem kid." She was reluctant to go into any details about the deportation, saying she didn't know any specifics.
"She didn't have any reason to leave," Lorene Turner said. "She lived in a nice home (with her mother and stepfather). We were very close. I don't know why she left."
• Garcia reported from Bogota, Colombia. Associated Press reporters Linda Stewart Ball in Dallas and Sandy Kozel in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.