12-year-old Bahamian girl reportedly placed in US shelter as family tries to retrieve her

A 12-year-old girl who fled the Bahamas with her family during Hurricane Dorian was reportedly separated from her godmother by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials and still remains in a shelter despite her family's attempts to retrieve her.

The Miami Herald reported that Kaytora Paul was separated from her godmother at the Miami International Airport on Sunday night by CBP officials because her godmother is not biologically related to her.

The girl was placed in His House Children’s Home, a nonprofit run by a local religious group in Miami that doubles as a U.S. government facility for unaccompanied migrant children, the newspaper reported.

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Paul's mother told the Herald that the girl's biological aunt was also told by CBP officials that she could not sponsor the child, forcing the 12-year-old to remain in the shelter while the family attempts to reunite with one another after being rescued.

"There wasn’t enough space. 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 Paul said.

“I thought losing my house was devastating. Or having to relocate to a different island or country was devastating,” she continued. “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 she is currently engaged in the process to retrieve her daughter from the shelter as a legal sponsor but has only 16 days to do so before she is legally required to return to the Bahamas.

“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,” Paul told the Herald. “You should hear her voice. She’s out of it. Crying, depressed. She wants her family but we can’t do anything.” 

"On Monday, September 9th, CBP in West Palm Beach encountered an unaccompanied minor evacuating from the Bahamas — arriving with an adult that had no identifiable familial relationship. 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 (HHS) custody," a spokesperson for CBP told The Hill on Wednesday.

"CBP exercises due diligence to guard against child exploitation and human smuggling during uncertainties created by natural disasters and emergencies. When encountering minors there are legal requirements that CBP must follow that are in place to ensure the safety of the child. CBP works closely with our partners at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to transfer an unaccompanied child to their custody as quickly and as promptly as possible," the spokesperson added.