DALLAS — A Dallas Teen who has been missing for more than a year returned to the United States Friday after it was discovered she had been mistakenly deported to Colombia.
Fifteen-year-old Jakadrien Turner, upset over the loss of a grandfather and her parents' divorce, ran away from home in November of 2010, WFAA-TV reported. She was arrested for theft in Houston, where she gave police a fake name and claimed to be an 22-year-old undocumented immigrant from Colombia. She was deported.
The teen's grandmother, Lorene Turner, helped Dallas police track down the teen using social media. She asserted ICE "didn't do their work."
"How do you deport a 15-year-old and send her to Colombia without a passport ... without anything?" she said.
An increasing number of U.S. citizens are getting caught up in immigration enforcement proceedings, the New York Times reported. Hard statistics are difficult to come by, but according to one study, between 2006 and 2008, 82 American citizens in two Arizona detention Centers were held for periods as long as a year.
ICE has rapidly ramped up deportation efforts under the Obama administration, sending record numbers of immigrants back to their home countries. Under ICE's leading program, known as Secure Communities, the fingerprints of people booked at local jails are checked against Department of Homeland Security databases. If the fingerprints suggest a person may be in the country illegally, federal immigration agents can issue a detainer allowing local officials to hold a person for 48 hours while their immigration status is investigated.
In response to the growing number of incidents involving citizens, ICE launched a toll-free hot line last week that people being held on immigration detainers can call if they believe they are U.S. citizens or have been the victim of a crime.
ICE Director John Morton told the New York Times the agency gives "immediate and close attention" to anyone who claims to be a citizen. Detaining an American for immigration investigation is a potential wrongful arrest.
"We don't have the power to detain citizens," Morton said. "We obviously take any allegation that someone is a citizen very seriously."
Los Angeles resident Antonio Montejano, though, said his objections fell on deaf ears. Montejano spent four nights in jail on an immigration order after he was arrested for shoplifting in November.
"I told every officer I was in front of that I'm an American citizen, and they didn't believe me," he said.
In Turner's case, ICE officials said the teen never claimed to be an American citizen.
"She maintained a false identity throughout her local criminal proceedings in Texas where she was represented by a defense attorney and ultimately convicted by the State criminal court," ICE said in a statement. "At no time during these criminal proceedings was her identity determined to be false."
ICE agents conducted criminal database searches and biometric verification but found no information to invalidate her claims, according to the statement. It is not unusual for illegal immigrants not to have identification.
"Upon her conviction, was referred to ICE where she continued to maintain a false identity during immigration court proceedings," according to the statement. "She was ultimately ordered removed from the U.S. by a Department of Justice immigration judge."
When Jakadrien Turner arrived in South America, Colombian officials gave her a work permit and released her, according to WFAA-TV. The teen has reportedly been working as a housekeeper.
"She talked about how they had her working in this big house cleaning all day, and how tired she was," Lorene Turner said.
The grandmother called the deportation "a big mistake somebody made."
"She looks like a kid, she acts like a kid," she said. "How could they think she wasn't a kid?"