Hurricane Dorian forced a Bahamian family to flee for the presumed safety of the United States, but the United States instead ripped the family apart when U.S. officials separated a 12-year-old girl from her godmother and threw her into a facility that also detains migrant children, the Miami Herald reports.
Kaytora Paul had flown from Nassau to Florida on Sunday with her godmother when Customs and Border Protection took her because she wasn’t traveling with a biological parent, her mom Katty said. “The young evacuee is currently being housed at His House Children’s Home in Miami Gardens,” where the federal government detains some unaccompanied minors, or kids who to come to the U.S. alone.
But Kaytora hadn’t come alone, and the only reason she was traveling with her godmother was because a rescue effort had already separated the family. The roof of their home had collapsed and they were living in their wrecked car when help came. “But there wasn’t enough space,” Katty said. “At that point you have to make a decision. I sent my 12-year-old with her godmother, while I stayed with our two youngest and my husband stayed with our adult son.”
Katty now worries she could be sent back without her daughter. Officials reportedly refused a biological aunt who had gone to the airport to try to get the girl, and after arriving to Florida on Tuesday, Katty was told she must apply with the federal government to be her own daughter’s sponsor. But the complicated process requires a number of documents and can take weeks, and “U.S. officials told her that she can only stay in the U.S. until Sept. 26.”
“I thought losing my house was devastating,” she said. “Or having to relocate to a different island or country was devastating. 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.” This separation should never have happened in the first place because Kaytora was not unaccompanied, said immigrant rights advocate Paola Luisi. “It’s a misleading term that's used as an excuse to rip families apart.”
“Trump's cruelty against black and brown people knows no end,” said Families Belong Together chair Jess Morales Rocketto. “This little girl came to the US fleeing Hurricane Dorian with her godmother at her parents' direction only to be classified as an 'unaccompanied minor' and ripped away from her loved ones. Now, her family has to start the long process of becoming the child's sponsor while they face deportation at the end of the month. We demand her immediate release."