Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli defended the Trump administration’s refusal to grant temporary protected status to Bahamians displaced by Hurricane Dorian, arguing that the archipelago’s residents can fend for themselves.
“The Bahamas is a perfectly legitimate country capable of taking care of their own,” Cuccinelli said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” crediting U.S. immigration agencies for having “rushed resources in” and being “downright heroic” in their efforts.
Last week, Mark Morgan, Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it would be “appropriate” for Bahamians to receive TPS status, which would allow them to temporarily relocate to the U.S. to live and work while recovery efforts continue back at home.
Just hours after Morgan’s remarks, President Donald Trump appeared to close the door on that possibility when he claimed without evidence that “very bad people” including gang members and drug dealers could be hiding among the survivors fleeing the islands.
“We have to be very careful,” Trump said. “Everyone needs totally proper documentation because the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas who weren’t supposed to be there.”
That same day, the Department of Homeland Security affirmed on its website that Bahamians traveling to the U.S. by sea “must be in possession of a valid passport AND valid travel visa.” Those arriving without a visa by air may gain entry to the country by meeting certain other requirements, such as having a valid passport, a police certificate and no criminal record.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, reports emerged from CNN, NBC and eventually other outlets, announcing that the Trump administration would not consider TPS.
The Associated Press reported Sunday that the official death toll from the storm stands at 50, and some 1,300 people are missing.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday said he was horrified by the “level of systematic devastation” after his visit to Great Abaco this weekend.
“Hurricane Dorian has been classified as Category 5. I think it’s Category Hell,” he said.