After some 'confusion' which prevented some people from leaving behind severe hurricane damage in the Bahamas, and traveling to the United States, the acting head of the Border Patrol told reporters at the White House on Monday that citizens of the Bahamas will need regular paperwork - but not special visas - to come to the U.S. while reconstruction work starts in heavily damaged areas of their country.
"We will accept anyone on humanitarian reason that needs to come here," said Acting Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan, who promised expeditious processing.
Asked by reporters about why people had been told to get off a ferry destined for Miami and other examples of citizens of the Bahamas not being allowed to travel to the U.S., Morgan said that was simply confusion over the situation in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian's devastation.
"There's going to be some confusion," Morgan said, as he made clear that normal immigration checks will be made.
CBP head Mark Morgan: "If you're from the Bahamas, and you want to come to the United States, you're going to be allowed to come to the United States."— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 9, 2019
But "we're still going to go through the process."
Those evacuating from the Bahamas who are U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and those with proper documentation to enter the U.S. are being processed at U.S. Ports of Entry. No visa document requirements have changed.— Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan (@CBPMarkMorgan) September 8, 2019
"That doesn't mean we do it with a blind eye," Morgan said to reporters in the White House Briefing Room, as he said anyone with a criminal record from the Bahamas would be allowed in - but then would be detained by U.S. immigration authorities, and not simply released into the country.
Two Republican Senators from Florida had quickly urged the White House to accept people from the Bahamas, as the scope of the devastation from Hurricane Dorian became more and more apparent over the weekend.
“As Bahamians seek refuge or start to rebuild after #Dorian, we cannot have the kind of confusion that occurred last night in Freeport,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), referring to a situation where many people were asked to get off a ferry, because they did not have a special visa to enter the U.S. - something not normally needed.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the issue may have been a lack of coordination with U.S. officials by the shipping company.
"Many Bahamian survivors have already entered the U.S. without a visa on ships that coordinated the process of checking passports & police records in advance," Rubio said.
That’s it. We’re leaving — all Bahamian evacuees without a visa taken off. The Bahamians who remain are in shock. No one understands why the rule was changed at the last minute. The parents and kids now stuck on the island. pic.twitter.com/Jvd3D6MTZW— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
A few hours later, President Trump struck a much tougher tone on the issue of allowing people from the Bahamas in to the U.S.
“I don't want to allow people who weren't supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States,” the President told reporters.
“We have to be careful,” Mr. Trump told reporters outside the White House. “Everybody needs totally proper documentation.”