They are helpless, and powerless, and they need a hand. Thousands of Bahamians are trying to get away from the disaster in the Bahamas. Many residents say they feel not enough is being done to help them (watch above). Some have been waiting in lines, on and off, for days, hoping for evacuation to the U.S. or other islands not impacted by Hurricane Dorian. They have nothing but the clothes on their backs. But suddenly the U.S. government wants more.
Sunday, more than a hundred Bahamians thought their time had come. They boarded a boat in Freeport bound for Fort Lauderdale, only to be kicked off because of “paperwork issues.” According to WSVN reporter Brian Entin, the crew “say they were told it was ok to accept Bahamian evacuees with passport and copy of police record. They boarded boat. Then when they sent manifest to US Customs and Border Patrol — they were told those without visas would not be accepted.”
Here is the full story we put together after getting off the ferry this morning. Hurricane evacuees kicked off the boat. Crew on the boat blamed US Customs and Border Protection, CBP now blames the ferry company @Balearia . pic.twitter.com/QLRcxbALdk
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
Up until yesterday, Bahamians were being allowed into the U.S. without a visa. But then something changed. Donald Trump told reporters Monday he’s concerned about who is trying to enter the U.S., saying:
“We’re also recovering from a hurricane, but we have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation because the — look, the Bahamas has some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there, I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very very bad drug dealers. We are going to be very, very strong. Let me just explain. Large sections of the Bahamas were not hit. And we are not allowing those people from the sections that were not hit.”
Pres. Trump on hurricane survivors trying to leave the Bahamas: "We have to be very careful. Everyone needs totally proper documentation…I don't want to allow people who weren't supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people." pic.twitter.com/NK66ftrC6o
— ABC News (@ABC) September 9, 2019
Earlier, in response to the report that some Bahamians were not allowed to come into the country, Florida Senator Rick Scott issued the following:
“It’s important Customs and Border Protection and the Bahamian government work together to clarify the current rules regarding visas in the Bahamas. As hundreds of thousands of Bahamians seek refuge or start to rebuild after Hurricane Dorian, we cannot have the kind of confusion that occurred last night in Freeport. Senator Rubio and I continue to urge President Trump to waive some visa requirements for those in the Bahamas that have family in the United States. But until that happens, there needs to be clarity on the current rules.”
Terrie Rizzo, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, released a statement saying:
“Those who have lost their documents in the storm, or cannot receive a response from an overwhelmed Bahamian government shouldn’t have to endure another tragedy of not being able to get to safety.
We need to waive visa requirements and grant temporary protected status immediately to Bahamian evacuees so they can get to safety and to reduce the strain on recovery efforts underway.”