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Trapped - By Lack Of ‘Official’ Status: Immigration Rules Catch Teen Who Needs Us Surgery

Taranique Thurston

Taranique Thurston

Video

Ginette Caty, mother of Taranique Thurston speaks

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

ACCESS to potentially life-saving medical treatment for a 15-year-old girl suffering from brain lesions has been blocked due to her irregular immigration status that bars her from travelling to the United States, her family says.

Her mother, Ginette Caty, 34, was naturalised as a Bahamian citizen in 2013 but her daughter Taranique Thurston will have to wait until her 18th birthday before she can apply for Bahamian citizenship. 

However, Ms Caty believes the life and long-term well-being of her daughter is being risked everyday she is kept away from several authorised scans and treatments at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida.

Taranique has been diagnosed with a brain cyst.

She was due to have treatment yesterday but it has been delayed because of her status. Jackson Memorial Hospital agreed to postpone her treatment until her travel status could be resolved.

Due to her mother’s naturalisation process, Taranique is currently registered in the Bahamas as a non-Bahamian born to a foreign mother and Bahamian father, who are unmarried.

Ms Caty is urging immigration officials to review her daughter’s status as she is currently barred from travel to the US due to her lack of a valid passport.

Ms Caty, born in The Bahamas to two non-Bahamian parents, says she applied for citizenship in 2000. However, she was not granted status for more than a decade – by which time she had already given birth to her three daughters.

She claimed that prior to her naturalisation, she also applied for status for each of her children, but said officials informed her that under the law, her daughters, like her, would have to wait until the age of 18 to apply for citizenship.

In the interim, her daughters were granted travel documents, which they were able to use to apply for American visas.

However, she claimed once those documents expired, she was instructed to register her children for both a Belonger’s Permit and a Certificate of Identity.

The US government no longer recognises those documents, and their official use has since been discontinued in accordance with the immigration policy introduced by the former Christie administration.

The November 2014 policy mandated that every person living in the Bahamas hold a passport of their nationality with proof to legally reside in this country, among other restrictions, like the requirement for every foreign person enrolled in schools, including children born in the Bahamas to immigrants, to have a student permit.

Children born here to non-Bahamian parents and entitled to apply for citizenship at 18, were instructed to apply for the citizenship of their parents until then to comply with the new policy.

However, human rights groups argue the policy disproportionately affects the children of Haitian migrants, the country’s largest migrant population, due to the state’s protracted and seemingly arbitrary processing of citizenship applications.

Both Taranique’s Certificate of Identity and Belonger’s Permit were issued in 2013.

Plea

In an emotional interview with The Tribune, Ms Caty issued pleas for understanding and support for her daughter’s condition.

“My child is Bahamian, this is all she knows as home. I am asking the government and immigration to do the right thing and help me and my family to get my daughter the help she needs,” she said.

“Her life is on the line and she needs the proper medical attention. The doctors here have already told us that they can’t do anymore because of their limited equipment.

“The referral is done. The doctors in Florida are waiting to assist. We just need to get her a valid passport, to get a valid visa to get there,” she added.

In a letter written on behalf of Ms Caty and her daughter, consultant neurologist at Doctors Hospital Dr Clyde Munnings wrote to Acting Director of the Department of Social Services Lillian Quant-Forbes. He acknowledged he was responsible for her treatment to date, but insisted the teen needed to seek further attention in the US due to a lack of a specialist paediatric neurosurgeon locally.

The letter dated April 18 notes: “Taranique Thurston is under my care. She was seen in my office today. She needs care in the United States of America; specialist paediatric neurosurgeon is not available in the Bahamas.”

The doctor said the teen needs a MRI brain scan on a machine not available locally. “Arrangements are being made with Jackson Memorial Hospital,” the doctor wrote.

A completed treatment application for Jackson Memorial Hospital was also presented to The Tribune.

Wiping back tears, Ms Caty said: “If there is anyone that knows the struggle of the immigration process and the problems that come with it, trust me, it’s me. I (was) waiting my whole life to be a Bahamian.”

Holding up her Bahamian passport, she continued: “I went nights hungry trying to save up the money needed to pay for this. For years and years and years, I pushed for this, begged for this, hell, it took so long, I would pay people just to check on my application and to make sure it was still there.

“Through God, I finally got it, but my children, my Bahamian children deserve better. They deserve to avoid the label of unwanted Haitian child. They aren’t unwanted. They aren’t Haitians. My babies are Bahamian-born children born to a (naturalised) Bahamian mother and a Bahamian father.

“I look at my daughter every day and I worry that this process could kill her. She doesn’t deserve this,” Ms Caty said. 

Attempts to secure comment from immigration officials were unsuccessful up to press time.  

Comments

joeblow 4 months, 3 weeks ago

But her child is her responsibility, she could explore another route, Cuba, Canada etc!! Bahamian passports are handed out like candy before elections in this country. They soon won't be worth the paper they are on!

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killemwitdakno 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The Haitian embassy should be able to provide an emergency one. If Bahamian immigration proved it, Haitian immigration shouldn't need much more.

On the heels of them in the headlines last week..

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infoseeker 4 months, 3 weeks ago

This child's father is a Bahamian, she should be also. The law is so messed up. She also cannot "Get a Haitian passport" Her mother doesn't even have a Haitian passport as she was born here and is not seen as Haitian in Haiti. Both of her parents have Bahamian passports and this child is unable to get one is beyond stupid. But this is the type of things most of us look at and say well too bad, but we're talking about a child's health. I know of children given passports to represent the Bahamas at Carifta and other international events even though they should have waited until 18. We grant these things when we see it as beneficial to us. Shame on us. Give this Bahamian child her passport.

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tetelestai 4 months, 3 weeks ago

infoseeker, admittedly I posted my comments before reading yours. So, you are asserting that she is unable to receive a Haitian passport due to the fact that both of her parents have Bahamian passports? Ok, fair enough...thank you for the clarification.

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joeblow 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The Haitian constitution confers Haitian citizenship by birth, to a child born of a Haitian parent! So the mother is a Haitian with a Bahamian passport. DNA would confirm if the child father is the Bahamian (remembering that Bahamian now means whatever Haitians want it to mean)!

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infoseeker 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Haiti has no knowledge of the mother. How will they acknowledge her as Haitian? They magically know of all of their citizens being born outside of the country? The mother already claimed another Nationality, how can she now say to the Haitian government....Oh wait I'm a Haitian I need a passport. Y'all biased bad. But we all about Claiming De'Andre Ayton as a Bahamian when both his parents are not Bahamian (NONE not even daddy like this girl here) he was only born here. LOL. But carry on smartly, let the child die 'cuz we just hate Haitians that much, we prepared to sacrifice one of our own (Bahamian daddy) and let her suffer too.

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joeblow 4 months, 2 weeks ago

How exactly are you privy to this information? If the mother left Haiti and speaks Haitian creole and admits to being Haitian then she is in all probability a Haitian and conferred Haitian citizenship to the child by birth! She should make her way to the Haitian embassy!

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licks2 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The mother's parents are/were Haitians. . .make her Haitian entitled to a Haitian passport! The child is Haitian due to Haiti's amendment of Article 11 in 2008. . .the Bahamas retained its Article 7 requirement for citizenship. . .by law the child is not Bahamian and is Haitian. . .that's why the UN will not classify her as stateless. . .nor any Haitian born in the Bahamas and can't be Bahamian citizens. . .it is what it is!!

THIS CHILD IS NOT BAHAMIAN AND NO AMOUNT OF NONSENSE YOU TALK WILL MAKE IT DIFFERENT. . .SHE IS NOT BAHAMIAN!!

SHE CAN TRAVEL ANYTIME . . . BUT THE USA WILL NOT ALLOW HER TO COME IN THEIR COUNTRY. HAITIANS CAN THINK AS EVERYBODY ELSE. . .FIX YALL STUFF AND STOP DOING ALL KIND OF NONSENSE LIKE YALL EEN GAT NO SENSE THEM BLAME EVERYBODY FOR TELLING YINNA TO CHECK YASEF. . .

HAITIANS NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT THEY CAN ONLY MASH-UP THEIR OWN NATION. . .NOT EVERYBODY ELSE OWN.

After saying that. . .I believe that if her daddy is Bahamian she should be Bahamian too. . .

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infoseeker 4 months, 3 weeks ago

SHE'S HAITIAN BECAUSE HER PARENTS ARE UNMARRIED.

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tetelestai 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I ask this question out of ignorance, and I stand very much to be corrected. But, isn't the Tribune headline wrong? To the best that I understand our law, this by all accounts wonderful young lady does have a status. She is a Haitian citizen and can receive a Haitian passport at any time. Is this not accurate? The issue here isn't "status", its that she wants a Bahamian passport, no? And, for the record, I am not attempting to argue whether her current immigration status should be the case, I am just pointing out that the only reason she is "without status" is because she does not have a Haitian passport, that she is eligible to receive at any moment. Again, if I am wrong, please correct me.

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hrysippus 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Not a correction but I wonder if you know anyone who has had to go through the process of getting a Haitian passport? I am reliably informed that it is a corruption filled bureaucratic nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions. It also requires a visit to Haiti and if she goes there then the chances of our wonderful hardworking Immigration Department officers ever letting her back into this country of her birth are slim to non-existent. Apart from that you have a great suggestion.

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killemwitdakno 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The embassy here accommodates them without having to deal with mainland Haiti. As all embassies anywhere should for residing irregulars that belong to them.

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OMG 4 months, 3 weeks ago

At the end of the day we seem to live in a world where official rules are applied without recourse to special cases. Surely arrangements could be made for this treatment after all after World War 2 the USA turned a blind eye to Nazi war criminals and allowed them entry because they had valuable technical information and expertise. If that could be done then then this young lady deserves the same treatment.

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TheMadHatter 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Tetelestai - you are correct. All children of a Haitian parent are considered Haitian no matter where in the world they are born.

Haitians stick together. That's why they are winning the war against us.

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jackbnimble 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Can't be winning if you still so-called stateless.

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bogart 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Sad situation...understands you Madhattrr...but dis story has other matter... Mother is 34 years ols...mother applied fer ciyizenship in 2000...18 years ago when 16 ?? Years old..did not gets it until decade plus later....26 plus years old later ??.....daughter is 15 years old...mother pregnant at 18 - 19 ?? ...years old....???who was da father registered at PMH...??.?..in 2003???.?..dis Bahamian father needs to be in da picture claiming he ...... 3 chillren .......he needs to step ups to da plate...was.mother still in school??? who he is...who he family is....why isnt this Bahamian father not named....no man should do dis to he daughter in need.....da mother needs to call hims out....why hasnt she..???....whys she seems to be protectin him...???.....he needs to steps up to da plate....

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infoseeker 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Madhatter. How can the child get a Hatian passport when her mother isn't even registered in Haiti as a Haitian. This child is only not Bahamian because her parents aren't married, simple as that. All other things remaining she would be Bahamian if her father married her mother. Nowhere else in the world this happens. And to Bogart, how do you know the Bahamian father hasn't"claimed" his children. The child has her father's last name. Him stepping up to the plate has nothing to do with the situation and will change nothing. Single Bahamian men have no rights and cannot pass on citizenship.

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infoseeker 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Citizenship should not be based solely on if your parents are married or not. We're going to let a whole child suffer and possibly die because her parents are not married. Let that sink in and repeat it as many times as you need to. THIS CHILD CAN "DIE", because her parents are unmarried. She could have the same mummy, and the same daddy only a piece of paper (Marriage certificate) is stopping her from being Bahamian. Boy I tell ya some of yall. Yall the same people who claim to be Godly or Christians, yall have no love in your hearts if you can truly say....well too bad she should have done XYZ. A child comes into this world innocent and not choosing their parents or the place they were born. And you wonder why some of the things that happen to you happens, I believe you get out of this world just what you give it.

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hrysippus 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Citizenship should not be based solely on if your parents are married or not. . Your statement is totally incorrect. We had a referendum to correct this injustice but the ignorant self serving pastors and bishops told their sheep, I mean flock, to vote against it. We are one of a handful of backward countries who discriminate against women, based on their right to pass on citizenship, which in turn is based on whether they are married to a foreigner or not. Its just crazy but there you go, Welcome the Bahamas and zthank you Bishop Drexel Gomez. I hope that history will always remember your part in this disgrace which cost the FNM an election but by a happy coincidence also led to two of your children being appointed cabinet ministers in Bumbling Buffoon Perry's PLP cabinet.

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infoseeker 4 months, 3 weeks ago

My statement is correct in theory but unfortunately not by law. It SHOULDN'T be based on that but it is. And I do agree with you on the referendum, it was just plain stupid to vote against it and I was not one of those who felt obliged to do so just because some pastor or politician said so. I am in total agreement with us being a backwards state because of the discrimination, but we also discriminate against our men as well. As is the case here, an unmarried Bahamian man cannot pass on citizenship. I never saw the referendum as being for women's rights it was for the rights of all Bahamians. Unfortunately we didn't understand what the hell we were voting for.

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themessenger 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Infoseeker I am in full agreement with you but you will not over come the hatred Bahamians have for Haitians. We make such a fuss about racism all the time, look at the storm in the teacup over Sir Roland, but Bahamians don't see their hatred of Haitians as racism,but as they say, a rose by any other name. When God was handing out ignorance he emptied the barrel in this country but forgot to add a little charity.

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TheMadHatter 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Infoseeker...i hope the girl gets the help she needs. Hopefully others will also learn from this sad story.

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spoitier 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Something is fishy about this story because Bahamian Citizenship is past from the father to his kids, in fact every time I travel back home I am urge to go get my kids Bahamian passport by Immigration and customs. Secondly, a Foreign-Bahamian can get a travel document which have nothing to do with the Jackson Memorial Hospital business unless that is some kind of provision to get free medical attention.

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infoseeker 4 months, 3 weeks ago

A Bahamian father cannot pass on citizenship if he is unmarried.

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hrysippus 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I believe this applies to Bahamian mothers not fathers. Fathers can pass on citizenship to their children if born to a foreign wife, mothers can pass on citizenship to their children only if not married to a foreigner. If married then those children can apply for citizenship at 16, I think. Been there an done that, twice over.

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bogart 4 months, 3 weeks ago

@infoseeker, this gut wrenching story ... has to deal wid many matters.....and had been going on in odder cases ....families torn apart....has to live in different countries....peoples had to adopt dere own chillren.....we jus had one referendum recently..plenty persons who born Bahamas wants passports...persons who may or may not have applied waants Passports.....many stories many more families involved....it is from continued continuous representations of many voices..yours...madhatter..odder..willing to risk...gets insulted called names ..many pressure groups ...expressing dere views....talking to ypur MPs...sides if Remy Martin..??? Can get emmrrhency travel papers...so should she...... The Bahamian father Thurston who sexed her hher then 17 - 18 year old mother who at the time didnt hav papers straight ..when should on dis heartfelt story be in da picture holding this young ladys mother hand on his baby so heartfelt critical matter....its a natural Bahamian ting fathers do....!!!! On another side we Bahamas does have expert brain surgeons who have been doing brain surgeries ...does heart surgeons...as a matter of fact we has doctors here who so smart to create medical processes dat other countries States are using.... .as a matter of fact only da oddrr day Doc Sands talking bout plenty doctors....

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My2centz 4 months, 3 weeks ago

There are solutions that don’t involve parading this child as a mascot for illegal immigrants and whining about “unfair” laws. The Bahamian father can be granted full custody and secure status for her. Or the Haitian embassy in Bahamas can do its job and fast track a Haitian passport (which she needs in a few years, anyway). So that a US visa, that will allow her to travel, can be issued.

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bogart 4 months, 3 weeks ago

@My2cents....thank you....the father. The child needs immediaye help.

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geostorm 4 months, 3 weeks ago

@my2cents, you making better sense! You gave 2 good options. Since the child needs help immediately, I would suggest that the mother tries your second option.GET A HAITIAN passport for the child. Given the circumstances, I'm pretty sure the Haitian Embassy will be obliged to help.

No use crying over old archaic laws. Get the child the help she needs.

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pocoloo 4 months, 3 weeks ago

All of this and no father has appeared, I wonder why? Further, I really believe that the US embassy already found out from their interview that this woman has no insurance and no money for medical bills. If you can't pay passport won't make a difference they will deny her. FOR THE RECORD, THAT CHILD IS A HAITIAN.

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jamaicaproud 4 months, 3 weeks ago

For the record, that child is a human.

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infoseeker 4 months, 3 weeks ago

@hrysippus. You are absolutely incorrect. Single Bahamian men cannot pass on citizenship, we voted no to the referendum that would have changed it. I'm not guessing either, this is a fact. Go and read the Constitution, this is not the only case if this bull**** going on. I have two cousins by the same father, one is Bahamian and the other is not. I speak from experience.

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jamaicaproud 4 months, 3 weeks ago

You are all some sick people. No one has spoken lick about the health of a young innocent girl. All you are talking about IS SICK IMMIGRATION STATUS. How sick, law over life. wow!!!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months, 3 weeks ago

And what about all of the Bahamian children who have two parents who were born in the Bahamas but are unable to afford or obtain the specialized healthcare their child needs in the U.S.? We can't even do for our own but you want us to do for others. Why don't you move to Haiti and be of some help to all of the many millions of Haitian children living there who are in pretty much the same predicament as this girl because of the abject poverty they live in? You can leave us to try do for our own. Most of us know many Bahamian children born to Bahamian parents who need as much if not more than this girl. We can all grieve for her as humans but only a foolish unpatriotic Bahamian citizen or resident of the Bahamas of Haitian descent would rather throw a lifeline to her while leaving our very own to drown. Haiti would have us spend every available dollar we have on needy persons of Haitian descent in priority to looking after our own people who are in desperate need. That's a simple enough fact!

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jamaicaproud 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I am in Jamaica. This child is in the Bahamas and was born there. This is not about cost. I see no one addressing that issue. Should it be an issue in "wealthy Bahamas"? All I see is reckless talk about if a young black child is Haitian or not. I really don't know if it must be classified as backwardness or hatred or both. You know full well,(which is what you want) is that a child born in your country will not be able to return if she goes for treatment.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Of course it's about cost....and the Bahamas is not as wealthy as you obviously think. And by the way, we Bahamians get to decide who is and is not a citizen of our country.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The Tribune sheds more crocodile tears for persons of Haitian descent than it does real tears for indigenous Bahamians just to increase its print circulation and online viewership. And all of us posting here take the sob story bait.

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CatIslandBoy 4 months, 3 weeks ago

What a sick and twisted mind. So, we should ignore the fact that the young girls father is a full-blooded Bahamian, and punish her because her mother is of Haitian descent? How sick!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months, 3 weeks ago

As I have pointed out above to 'jamaicaproud,' we Bahamians get to decide who is and who is not a citizen of our country. And not too long ago we reaffirmed in a lawful and democratic way, by means of the outcome of a duly held national referendum, who we want to qualify for Bahamian citizenship. The outcome might not have been what you wanted, but you will just have to live with it until we Bahamians decide to change our citizenship laws. I guess you would also have a problem with the fact that you cannot be born Jewish if your mother at the time of your birth was not Jewish, even though your father was a devout Jew all of his life. Some rules you just have to live with no matter how unfair they may seem. As for the girl mentioned in the above article, we can and should have compassion, but our very limited resources must, as a matter of proper priority, be devoted to equally needy or more needier Bahamians, and there are plenty of them.

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jamaicaproud 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I am not going to argue that. I will only say, its a sick backward paranoid view. In 2018, children should be citizens of the country they are born except if their parents are diplomats. However, you have been so indoctrinated in hate an paranoia that you can't figure that out yet. The issue of a young child getting care doesn't mean a thing to you. Is Bahamian citizenship heaven? Has it ever occurred to you, that if every Haitian wanted to be in the Bahamas, you population would be 5 million by now? Get a heart

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Holding up her Bahamian passport, she continued: “I went nights hungry trying to save up the money needed to pay for this. For years and years and years, I pushed for this, begged for this, hell, it took so long, I would pay people just to check on my application and to make sure it was still there."

The mother of this girl readily admits she paid significant sums under the table to get her Bahamian citizenship and passport. She should be making her appeal on behalf of her daughter to the government of Haiti through its embassy in the Bahamas. It is for that government (and not the government of the Bahamas) to secure the immigration status her daughter needs to enter the U.S. And I really don't give two hoots what you may think of me. But you can join me in shedding a tear for the many young Bahamians who must go without medical care the U.S. simply because they lack the required financial resources.

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bogart 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Where is the lawyer Fred Smith QC.....he is usually in the forefront of all these situations...he has been unusually out of the papers for awhile after the Remy...Detention Centre...Searches .....shantytowns..etc..???....was somewhat surprised to first find this heartwrenching story without him in it...? ............. On neurosurgery...brain surgry it just so happens that after one such surgery at Princess Margaret Hospital the patient was overjoyed that he an PMH neurosurgeon brain surgeon Doctor was featured in an article in the Tribune..........google tribune successfull brain surgery saves a life....by Tribune features writer Jeffarah Gibson ...Surgeon was Dr. Ekedede.....removing a tumor...pituiary gland...size of grapefruit.....tumors not uncommon.. There are other articles neuro surgery...at Doctors Hospital...even google Brain Injury Foundation founded since 2013...even has facebook page....

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killemwitdakno 4 months, 3 weeks ago

"Her mother, Ginette Caty, 34, was naturalised as a Bahamian citizen in 2013 but her daughter Taranique Thurston will have to wait until her 18th birthday before she can apply for Bahamian citizenship."

This is incorrect. Since the mother is single, she could have applied for her before 18.

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killemwitdakno 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Unlike here where the guys in green are not permitted at hospitals, ICE has removed patients in care. Might want to try Cuba. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTRJI...">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTRJI...

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