The family of a 12-year-old Bahamian girl is desperately trying to get her back after she was sent to a Miami Garden shelter for abused or abandoned children when the family was separated.
However, when they arrived in Florida, U.S. Customers and Border Protection ultimately ended up separating Kaytora and her godmother because the woman was not Kaytora’s biological parent, Katty Paul, Kaytora’s mother told the Herald.
When Kaytora’s biological aunt went to get her, officials still refused to release her into the family’s custody.
At this point, Kaytora is currently at His House Children’s Home in Miami Gardens, which houses unaccompanied migrant children, under the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Herald notes.
Kaytora was considered an “unaccompanied minor” as she was not with her biological mother or father.
“I thought losing my house was devastating. Or having to relocate to a different island or country was devastating,” Katty Paul said. “But when I found out that they got her, my baby, I mean, there are no words. It was at that moment that I really lost everything.”
Paul said that the family was separated after she, her husband, Kaytora and her three other children, ages 3, 10 and 19, barely survived Hurricane Dorian’s rampage.
“We were in our house when the roof collapsed. The floodwaters kept rising. We spent six days in our Dodge sleeping with the windshield broken, getting wet in the rain,” she said. “To go through that harrowing experience with your children, and then for one to be taken away from you?”
Rescuers eventually came for the family, and Paul made the difficult decision to let Kaytora’s godmother look after her.
“There wasn’t enough space. At that point you have to make a decision,” Paul explained. “I sent my 12-year-old with her godmother, while I stayed with our two youngest and my husband stayed with our adult son.”
And now, according to the Herald, getting Kaytora back will not be easy. Paul is currently in the U.S. but could not go get her, as she was told that she’d have to go through the process of applying to be her daughter’s sponsor with the HHS. In addition, Paul said that she would have to prove that she was Kaytora’s mother by getting the necessary documentation, such as a birth certificate, and government ID and proof of address in a process that, according to the Herald has taken weeks, or even months in the past.
To make matters worse, Paul was told by U.S. officials that she will only be allowed to stay in the country until Sept. 26, not giving her the weeks or months that she may need in order to regain custody of her daughter.
“I don’t even want to think about what that will look like — if I have to leave here before being able to claim my own daughter,” she said. “You should hear her voice. She’s out of it. Crying, depressed. She wants her family but we can’t do anything.”