Days after scores of Bahamian hurricane evacuees were denied entry into the United States, U.S. President Donald Trump claimed the U.S. has to be careful who it allows in as The Bahamas has some “very bad gang members”.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump said, “We have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation because The Bahamas has some tremendous problems with people going to The Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there.”
He continued, “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.”
“So, we are going to be very, very strong in that. Let me just explain. Large sections, believe it or not, of The Bahamas were not hit. And what we’re doing is bringing the people to those sections of The Bahamas that have not been hit. We’ve done a lot of the U.S.A. aid. We’ve done a lot of work with our coast guard, with our FEMA people, who have been phenomenal. I mean, they have been phenomenal. So, we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens.”
Hurricane Dorian pulverized swathes of Abaco and Grand Bahama. The storm, which made landfall in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, as a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 185 miles per hour, “decimated” the community, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said.
There was controversy over the weekend following reports that more than 100 Bahamian evacuees were forced to disembark from a ferry headed to Florida from Grand Bahama on Friday.
“Please, all passengers that don’t have have a U.S. visa, please proceed to disembark,” a crew member said in a video posted by Brian Entin on Twitter.
However, on Saturday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it continues to process the arrivals of Bahamians “evacuating from The Bahamas according to established policy and procedures”.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection is supporting the humanitarian mission with interagency partners in The Bahamas following the impact of Hurricane Dorian,” CBP said in a tweet.
It noted that nearly 1,500 Bahamian evacuees who had already arrived at the Port of Palm Beach, Florida, were processed “without incident”.
Yesterday, Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan said the U.S. would allow Bahamians, whose “life is in jeopardy”, entry to the United States “whether you have travel documents or not”.
“What I would say about The Bahamas is that you could imagine any type of natural disaster like this where you have this huge disaster, a lot of resources and responding, there is going to be some confusion,” Morgan said.
“And so, what I would say is that’s what that was. So, CBP, we’re not lurking and telling the cruise line, that ‘You cannot allow anyone without documents.’
“That’s just not being done, so there’s just some confusion there. We will accept anyone on humanitarian reasons that needs to come here. We will process them expeditiously.”
Morgan said evacuees who are “deemed to be inadmissible,” such as criminals or individuals who would’ve been denied entry to the United States previously, will not be allowed entry.
“We’re going to process them like we normally would,” he said.
National Emergency Management Agency Spokesperson Carl Smith said yesterday there have been no new arrangements with the U.S. regarding entry.