HOUSTON (AP) — The mother of a teenage Dallas runaway who gave authorities a false name and wound up deported to South America has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against officials with the Justice Department and Homeland Security contending her daughter was illegally detained and deported.
The suit, filed Tuesday by Johnisa Turner on behalf of her daughter Jakadrien Turner, is asking for $15 million in damages. It also discloses publicly for the first time that while in Colombia, Jakadrien Turner became pregnant by a 29-year-old man.
Jakadrien Turner, who was 14 at the time, was picked up for shoplifting last year at a Houston mall and identified herself to authorities as a 21-year-old Colombian national. She subsequently was deported and spent seven months in Colombia living in shelters before she was returned to the U.S. in January after her grandmother and Dallas police tracked her down.
“Ms. Turner’s illegal detention and deportation are the direct and foreseeable consequence of official policies, patterns, practices and customs that manifest not only intentional discrimination based on race and ethnicity and a failure to recognize basic principles of due process, but also a reckless disregard for human life and liberty,” according to the lawsuit.
Defendants named in the suit include Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, as well as various officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, do not comment on pending litigation, said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen.
The Justice Department did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
“Turner consistently used a false identity with her dealings with the Houston police, her defense attorney, ICE, the immigration court and the Colombian government. She continued to maintain this false identity as reflected in her social media postings for six months while in Colombia, never claiming to be a United States citizen,” ICE said in a January statement that Christensen referred to the AP on Wednesday.
The teenager’s attorney, Ray Jackson, said federal authorities were ultimately at fault for what happened to his client.
“The buck should have stopped with them,” he said.
The Associated Press does not normally name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but Jackson said the teenager’s family agreed to make the pregnancy public to help detail what had happened to Turner as a result of her wrongful deportation. Jackson did not have details about the circumstances of Turner’s pregnancy, which occurred when she was 15. The teenager is expected to have her baby sometime this summer, Jackson said.
The suit also said that while living in Colombia, Turner worked at a call center and lived in a group home for unwed mothers.
“She was afraid that she would be jailed in Colombia and never see her family again,” according to the suit.
U.S. immigration officials have insisted they followed procedure and found nothing to indicate that the girl wasn’t a Colombian woman living illegally in the country.
The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said Turner was issued travel documents at the request of U.S. officials using information they provided.
A review by the AP of more than two dozen telephone calls Turner made while in custody in Houston showed the teenager never expressed concern that she was being misidentified as an illegal immigrant from Colombia.
Jackson said the lawsuit would explain the phone calls and also explain “why she did what she did.” He declined to offer more details.
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