Less than one week after Hurricane Dorian decimated the Bahamas, leaving 44 dead, tens of thousands homeless, and 2,500 missing, the United States has added Bahamian refugees to its swelling list of people on whom it is turning its back.
Protocol traditionally grants Bahamians with clean criminal records permission to enter the U.S. with just passports.
Trump has refused to waive any visa requirements.
"Some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers."
We probably all remember what Donald Trump said the day his presidential reality show debuted back in 2015.
Except this time he isn't talking about Mexicans.
Last week, Donald Trump said:
"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."
Less than one week after climate change-fueled Hurricane Dorian decimated the Bahamas, leaving 44 dead, tens of thousands homeless, and 2,500 missing, the United States has added Bahamian refugees to its swelling list of people on whom it is turning its back.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) refused more than 100 Bahamians fleeing their small island nation's destruction entry to the United States last week because they lacked visas.
Shortly after hundreds of Bahamian refugees boarded a Balearia Caribbean boat bound from Freeport to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., a crew member announced over the public address system those without visas must disembark lest CBP reject their asylum claims.
This may not seem all that unusual except when we consider CBP protocol traditionally grants Bahamians with clean criminal records permission to enter the U.S. with just passports.
In fact, 1,500 Bahamians did just that last Saturday.
Miami's WSVN Channel 7 investigative reporter Brian Entin verified with video evidence an unidentified individual announcing to passengers about to leave the Bahamas to disembark.
Entin reported a woman informed him an estimated 130 people disembarked after this announcement.
CBP is, of course, blaming Balearia Caribbean.
CBP Florida spokesperson, Michael Silva, told Newsweek:
"It breaks my heart because it's like when you raise somebody's hopes and then you pop the balloon. That, in my opinion, is what Baleària did. It raised the expectations of these poor people who have been through an unimaginable situation with the hurricane. They raised their expectations only to then leave them terribly disappointed."
Silva added CBP told Balearia Caribbean in advance it needed to shuttle evacuees to Nassau, where people could obtain visas, before continuing to Florida.
Trump has the authority waive visa restrictions. He could have done that in this case.
Interestingly, that is exactly what Florida state Rep. Shevrin Jones asked Trump to do, as did Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.
Silva also alleges Balearia Caribbean charged passengers $150.
Yet the approximately 1,500 who arrived on the Grand Celebration humanitarian cruise ship arrived in Palm Beach for free and without visas.
Marissa Jackson Sow, New York City Coalition on Human Rights Deputy Commissioner, commented:
"Even if this rule change were acceptable, how would any Bahamian apply for a visa right now? This is beyond cruel."
"CBP is not denying or discouraging evacuation efforts and we empathize with the plight of the Bahamian people."
Trump, however, has to date refused to waive any visa requirements for Dorian survivors.
Ted Millar is a writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Straight Forward Poetry, Better Than Starbucks, the Broke Bohemian, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to Liberal America, Zoedune, and Liberal Nation Rising.