12-year-old Bahamian evacuee separated from her family by Customs and Border Protection

By David Dwork - Digital Editor
Associated Press

Bahama's Army officer registers the people prior boarding a ferry to Nassau at the Port in Marsh Harbor, Abaco Island, Bahamas, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019

MIAMI - Trying to escape the destruction of Hurricane Dorian, a 12-year-old Bahamian girl was separated from her family after arriving from the Bahamas at a South Florida airport. 

According to the Miami Herald, Keytora Paul, 12, and her godmother flew from Nassau to West Palm Beach on Sunday night after being evacuated from Abaco. 

After they landed, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it "made multiple attempts to contact family members" but those efforts were unsuccessful. 

It was at that point, according to the Herald, that CBP says it transferred Keytora to Department of Health and Human Services custody, separating her from her aunt because she wasn't the girl's biological parent. 

A spokesperson from U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a statement Tuesday that read, in part: 

"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. This established CBP protocol is meant to protect vulnerable children from exploitation and human smuggling and is especially important during uncertainties created by natural disasters and emergencies. CBP has been in contact with the child's mother and is working through HHS to verify legitimate caretakers and reunite them."

Keytora's mother told the Herald that government officials refused to give custody the girl to her biological aunt, who was at the airport to pick her up. 

The girl is currently staying at His House Children's Home in Miami Gardens. 

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