A Bahamian child is currently being detained in a Florida facility after immigration officials separated her from her family, who had sought refuge from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.
The Miami Herald reported on Tuesday that after 12-year-old Kaytora Paul arrived at West Palm Beach with her godmother this weekend, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents separated the two and refused to let the girl’s aunt pick her up at the airport because neither of the women were her mother.
Then the agents sent her to His House Children’s Home, an HHS-run migrant detention center in Miami for unaccompanied minors, where she currently remains in custody.
The girl’s mother, Katty Paul, told the Herald that finding out about her daughter’s detention was when she “really lost everything.”
“I thought losing my house was devastating. Or having to relocate to a different island or country was devastating,” said Paul, who arrived in the U.S. several days after her daughter. “But when I found out that they got her, my baby, I mean, there are no words.”
In order to get her daughter back, Paul has to go through the lengthy process of providing documented proof of their relationship — and she said she only has until September 26 to do it before she’s required to leave the country.
A CBP spokesperson told TPM in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the agency made “multiple attempts” to contact the girl’s family members but were “unsuccessful.”
“CBP exercises due diligence to guard against child exploitation and human smuggling during uncertainties created by natural disasters and emergencies,” the spokesperson said. “When encountering minors, there are legal requirements that CBP must follow that are in place to ensure the safety of the child.”
NBC News reported later on Wednesday that the Trump administration will deny Bahamian evacuees temporary protected status, preventing them from living in the U.S. while they wait for the situation in their hurricane-stricken home country to stabilize. It’s the same program the administration had tried to end for immigrants from Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua and El Salvador last year before President Donald Trump’s infamous “shithole” comment torpedoed the attempt in court.
This story has been updated to include CBP’s response to TPM and the Trump administration’s TPS policy on Bahamian evacuees.