Over the weekend, confusion over whether people fleeing the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian would be allowed to seek refuge in the U.S. prompted the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to declare that storm refugees are welcome, regardless of whether they have travel documentation. The statement came after a video taken aboard a ferry full of people showed an official announcing that those traveling from the Bahamas to the U.S. needed a visa to travel to the U.S.
“We will accept anyone on humanitarian reasons that needs to come here,” acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said during a news conference Monday at the White House. “If your life is in jeopardy and you’re in the Bahamas and you want to get to the United States, you’re going to be allowed to come to the United States, whether you have travel documents or not.” There are currently tens of thousands who are homeless on the islands in the aftermath of Dorian.
It didn’t take long for President Donald Trump to contradict that open-arms sentiment, saying that everyone fleeing the storm “needs totally proper documentation” to seek assistance in the U.S.
“We have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation because, look, the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there,” Trump said Monday. “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.”
The Washington Post notes that existing U.S. policy allows for Bahamians to “enter the United States without a visa by providing a passport and proof of no criminal record and going through pre-screening conducted by CBP in Freeport and Nassau.”