Bahamian girl reunited Thursday night after being separated from family

Kaytora Paul
Kaytora Paul

A 12-year-old Bahamian girl who was separated from family by U.S. immigration officials at a South Florida airport Sunday was reunited with her family Thursday night, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol confirmed.

Kaytora Paul, 12, was picked up by her mother and aunt sometime Thursday evening after spending four days at His House, a Miami Gardens shelter for unaccompanied migrant children. The girl, who was traveling with her godmother, was fleeing the destruction of Hurricane Dorian. Her family’s roof had collapsed, and they had slept in their SUV for days in the rain.

Federal government officials told the Miami Herald that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expedited the reunification process after the child’s case sparked public outrage. HHS told Florida officials that the U.S. government “was unaware the girl was a hurricane survivor” at the time of separation.

HHS has not responded to emails from the Miami Herald since Monday.

The girl and her godmother had flown from Nassau to West Palm Beach Sunday night after being evacuated from the hurricane-ravaged Abaco island. However, when the two landed in Florida, U.S. Customs and Border Protection transferred them over to Miami International Airport and ultimately separated the pair because the woman wasn’t the child’s biological parent, CBP confirmed.

Officials also refused to give the girl’s biological aunt, who had come to pick her up at the airport, custody. The young evacuee was then placed into the custody of HHS. His House is a facility used by the U.S. government to house unaccompanied migrant children. The girl would be considered an “unaccompanied minor” because she wasn’t physically accompanied by her biological mother or father.

The girl’s mother, Katty Paul — who was originally told she had to go through a lengthy process to claim her daughter, one that could take weeks or months — was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Monique O. Madan covers immigration and enterprise; she previously covered breaking news and local government. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and The Dallas Morning News. She is currently a Reveal Fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting. She graduated from Miami Dade College and Emerson College in Boston. A note to tipsters: If you want to send Monique confidential information, her email and mailbox are open. The address is 3511 NW 91st Ave, Doral, FL 33172. You can also direct message her on social media and she’ll provide encrypted Signal details.