Bahamians hoping to rebuild in the U.S. after fleeing the destruction of Hurricane Dorian are now searching for a Plan B after reports that President Donald Trump‘s administration won’t offer temporary protected status to those displaced by the storm.
An unnamed “administration official” broke the news to CNN on Tuesday.
The status, a form of humanitarian relief, would allow Bahamas evacuees to live and work in the U.S. until it is safe to return to their home country, which was left devastated after the Category 5 storm dumped heavy rains and winds on two major islands there. So far, an estimated 1,500 victims have arrived to the United States seeking refuge.
According to the official, the reasons for not extending TPS status are largely “statutory,” and include questions over the number of people eligible for TPS relief, the time it would take to provide aid, etc.
On Monday, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said that while there had not been any formal grant of TPS, he thought it “appropriate” to extend those protections to the survivors of Hurricane Dorian.
“I think that would be appropriate, to have that circumstance,” he said.
However, Donald Trump appeared to dismiss the idea altogether, arguing the U.S. should be “very careful” about welcoming in Bahamas evacuees.
“The Bahamas has some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there,” he told reporters Monday. “I don’t want to allow people who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come to the United States, including some very bad people, and some very bad gang members, and some very very bad drug dealers.”
In previous years, the U.S has granted TPS to some nations impacted by large-scale natural disasters, including Haiti, Nepal and Nicaragua. However, the Trump administration has tried — and failed — to roll back protections for many of those countries.
Currently, Bahamians are allowed to come to the U.S. temporarily so long as they have the proper documentation, including a valid passport and papers proving a clean criminal record. Last Sunday, more than 100 evacuees were turned away from a rescue ferry bound for Florida after a supposed mix-up over visa requirements.
“We boarded these passengers with the understanding that they could travel to the United States without visas, only to later having been [be] advised that in order to travel to Ft. Lauderdale, they required prior in-person authorization from the immigration authorities in Nassau,” ferry operator Balearia Caribbean told Miami station WVSN.
An estimated 50 people are dead and 2,500 others are still missing after the hurricane swept through the Bahamas last week. Appearing on CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday, Morgan said Bahamians looking to enter the U.S after escaping the storm-ravaged islands will be assessed on a “case-by-case” basis.
“We’re not going to deny somebody solely because they don’t have travel documents,” he added.