A young girl who had fled destruction in her home nation of the Bahamas was taken away from her family after Customs and Border Patrol agents in Miami said she did not have a biological relationship with the person she arrived in the U.S. with.
Kaytora Paul, 12, was separated from her godmother, the Miami Herald reported. The two had left their home on Abaco Island, going to the capital city of Nassau, before flying into Miami.
Kaytora’s godmother is not a blood relative, but the family is crying foul over the separation. According to The Independent, Kaytora’s mother, Katty Paul, has said the entire ordeal — first losing their home to the damage brought on by Hurricane Dorian, and now the separation, has likely had unimaginable damaging effects on her daughter.
“We were in our house when the roof collapsed,” the mother explained. “The floodwaters kept rising. We spent six days in our Dodge sleeping with the windshield broken, getting wet in the rain. To go through that harrowing experience with your children, and then for one to be taken away from you?”
CBP tried to explain why the separation was necessary, arguing it was for the protection of the girl more than anything else. They also said efforts were made to contact direct family members.
— Monique O. Madan (@MoniqueOMadan) September 10, 2019
“CBP made multiple attempts to contact family members, however, was unsuccessful, resulting in the need to transfer the child to Department of Health and Human Services custody,” the agency said in a statement. Kaytora currently resides at a non-profit facility that provides foster care services for children.
The process to retrieve her daughter could take months, Katty explained. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have time to collect all of the government paperwork, including birth certificates and other government IDs, to get custody of her daughter back — Katty is only allowed to stay in the U.S. until September 26.
The situation draws up parallels to the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy that was put in place, which required any undocumented immigrant to be separated from their children once they entered the U.S. Thousands of families were separated due to that policy, which remains in practice, in some ways, to this date, even though President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring its implementation.
Within that order, Trump allowed for CBP to separate families if there were legitimate worries over the child’s welfare. But in practice, those worries have included dubious circumstances, including one instance in which a father was separated from his daughter for not wanting to wake her up during a nap to change her diaper, CBS News reported earlier this summer.
Another father was separated from their child because his name matched that of a known criminal. The father was not, in fact, the same person, but it took 184 days for the U.S. government to reunite him with his child.
In total, since the “zero-tolerance” policy officially ended, at least 900 families have still been separated by CBP.