Trump Demands "Proper Documentation" for Hurricane Dorian Evacuees

President Donald Trump said the US has to be “very careful” when allowing people who are fleeing Hurricane Dorian’s devastation of the Bahamas to come into the country.

While he was addressing reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before heading to North Carolina to tour the areas that were affected by the hurricane, Trump said anyone who comes to the US from the Bahamas without proper documentation will not be allowed into the country.

"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 told reporters on September 9, according to NBC News.

"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're going to be very strong on that," Trump continued. Before Trump made his remarks, Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), denied people leaving the Bahamas due to the destruction of the hurricane were being turned away from the US for not having visas.

"We will accept anyone on humanitarian reasons that needs to come here," Morgan said during a news conference at the White House, according to ABC News. "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."

Morgan made his remarks a day after over a hundred Bahamians were kicked off a ferry boat heading to the US. The Baleària ferry was set to travel from Freeport, in the Bahamas, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on September 8, WSVN-TV reported.

Passengers were originally told that they were allowed to travel to the US with their Bahmanian passports and documentation from authorities verifying a clean criminal record. However, an announcement was made indicating that those who did not have US visas were not allowed to travel to the country, forcing 119 people to get off the ferry.

“All passengers who don’t have US visas, please proceed to disembark,” a ferry employee said, according to the news station.

Stephen Silvestri, the acting CBP port director in Port Everglades, told WSVN-TV it was a “business decision” by the ferry operators and said his port would have processed the evacuees without visas.

"We would have processed them, vetted them and worked within our laws and protocols and done what we had to do to facilitate them," Silvestri told the news station.>

In a statement to CNN, Baleària Caribbean apologized for the "hardship and inconvenience" experienced by the 119 passengers who were unable to take the ferry to the US.

"We boarded these passengers with the understanding that they could travel to the United States without visas, only to later having been advised that in order to travel to Ft. Lauderdale they required prior in-person authorization from the immigration authorities in Nassau," Baleària Caribbean added.

Hurricane Dorian devastated Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands over Labor Day weekend. The Category 5 storm killed at least 50 people, Carl Smith, a spokesman for the islands’ National Emergency Management Agency, told Reuters. Officials and rescuers expect that number to increase as more bodies are found.

The storm has caused many celebrities and institutions to reach out and help those in the Bahamas. On September 5, Hampton University announced that it would offer a free semester to students in the Bahamas affected by Hurricane Dorian.

Hampton said in a news release that it was partnering with the University of the Bahamas to offer a free semester, including room and board, to students who have been displaced by the storm. The university also noted that students who decide to come to the university in Hampton, Virginia have the option to stay after the fall and pay standard tuition fees and rates.

“I think this agreement is something that can be helpful to a great number of students and families, and is part of something I’ve tried to do my entire career — helping people to achieve and meet their goals,” Hampton University President William R. Harvey said in the statement.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.