Miccosukee Indian Village in Florida. Photo: Kerry Loggins

Miccosukee Tribe accused of 'kidnap' after baby taken at hospital

The Miccosukee Tribe is under fire after taking a newborn from her parents due to allegations of abuse.

According to news reports, Ingrid Ronan Johnson was born March 16 at Baptist Hospital in Miami, Florida. Her mother is Rebecca Sanders, a Miccosukee citizen, and her father is Justin Johnson, a non-Indian.

On Sunday, tribal police, accompanied by local law enforcement, came to the hospital and took Ingrid, her parents told The Miami Herald, which first reported the story. Now, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), a former Republican candidate for president, is threatening retribution if the baby isn't returned "asap."

"#Miccosukee tribe police used tribal court order to kidnap newborn baby from parents in #Miami hospital. They don’t have any jurisdiction outside reservation," Rubio wrote in a post on Twitter on Thursday evening after the story gained more traction in the mainstream media. "I’m in contact with fed officials & this won’t end well for tribe if they don’t return child asap."

The tribe hasn't commented publicly on the case. But an attorney for Betty Osceola, the baby's maternal grandmother, acknowledged Ingrid is in his client's care.

“My understanding is that she is healthy and happy,” attorney Spence West told The Herald.

Osceola obtained a tribal court order to gain custody of Ingrid on the day she was born, according to documents posted by Local10. She accused Johnson of abusing her other two grandchildren, ages 11 and 12.

"Both my grandchildren are afraid of him," Osceola wrote in her "affidavit for legal custody," which was granted by a tribal judge.

Sanders and Johnson, who do not appear to have participated in the proceeding, tell a different story. They claim Osceola made up the story about the abuse because she didn't want a "white man" raising the child, CBS Miami reported.

"I didn’t think she was evil enough to do something like this to her own daughter,” Sanders told the station.

Under the Indian Child Welfare Act, tribes can exercise jurisdiction over children belonging to their communities, whether or not the child lives on the reservation. The law typically comes into play in adoption and custody disputes among parents or guardians, and often when one parent's rights are at issue.

Sanders and Johnson do not appear to be in such a dispute. It's not clear whether Osceola was ever considered a guardian of the Ingrid prior to the granting of the court order on Friday.

However, Osceola and another maternal grandmother were granted custody of the older grandchildren last November, according to the tribal court documents posted by Local10. The judge found there was "reasonable cause" to believe that Johnson committed an "incident of violence" against Sanders while she was pregnant with the baby.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is checking whether Rubio has asked about the dispute, a spokesperson told Indianz.Com on Thursday. It's possible he has contacted other federal agencies.

Read More on the Story:
Miami hospital allowed tribal police to kidnap newborn baby, parents say (The Miami Herald March 21, 2018)
Miccosukee tribe takes baby from hospital. Rubio calls it a kidnapping (Local10.Com March 21, 2018)
Florida Couple Claims Hospital Allowed Miccosukee Police To Take Newborn Baby With Bogus Court Order (CBSMiami March 21, 2018)
Parents Say Newborn Daughter Taken From Hospital by Miccosukee Police After Tribal Order (NBC Miami March 21, 2018)
Miccosukee tribe seizes newborn from parents (The Associated Press March 21, 2018)

Join the Conversation