The treatment of storm-stricken Caribbean islanders by the Trump administration will go down in history as one of the most outrageous displays of cruelty and neglect in our nation’s history. When Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico in 2017, the Trump administration dragged its feet and allowed thousands to die unnecessarily with a deliberately botched and lethargic recovery effort.
They appear poised to repeat that behavior with its response to Hurricane Dorian. Outrage erupted on social media late Sunday night as videos began to circulate showing 130 hurricane refugees from the storm-battered Bahamas being kicked off a ferry to the United States because they did not have a United States visa.
Bahamians can usually travel to the United States with a passport and a printout of their police record, but Miami 7 News reporter Brian Entin says that “something” changed.
So they all lined up and waited for hours to board this ferry. (See my tweets from earlier) when we were about to leave, something changed.
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
Hundreds like Renard Oliver and his baby now have to get off the ferry from Freeport, Bahamas to Florida. He was trying to evacuate — told he could leave with Bahamian passport and police record like normal but then ferry crew says US Goverment called and changed plan last minute pic.twitter.com/vhBkSgBlKF
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 8, 2019
The Customs and Border Patrol confirmed that it demanded the ferry not leave while people without U.S. visas were aboard but is blaming the ferry company for “failing to coordinate” ahead of time. That still does not explain why Bahamians were previously allowed to enter with just a passport and criminal record and now they are not. While there’s no evidence of this as of yet, knowing this administration, it seems likely that someone high up the chain of command grew uncomfortable with the influx of refugees from a nation that is 85% people of African descent and demanded something be done about it.
That person likely was the president, who said on Monday that he “doesn’t want people who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas coming into the United States,” seemingly accusing the refugees of having snuck into the Bahamas to circumvent the U.S. border.
POTUS says he “doesn’t want to let people who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas come into the US” despite the wreckage from the hurricane
— Alayna Treene (@alaynatreene) September 9, 2019
1500 hurricane refugees arrived in Palm Beach, Florida, last week and were allowed to enter as normal.
Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke slammed the move as the “height of cruelty” and accused the Trump administration of “changing who we are as a country. ”
This is the height of cruelty—denying help to those who need it most. This administration has said the words on the Statue of Liberty should be rewritten, and in their actions, they are already changing who we are as a country.
It's on us to prove we're better than this. https://t.co/TXIlnDai41
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) September 9, 2019
Hurricane Dorian absolutely ravaged the Bahamas, flattening entire neighborhoods and left 70,000 people homeless. 45 people are confirmed dead, with that number likely to rise as rescuers continue to dig through the rubble. There is no power and no running water, and officials say that the damage will take “years” to recover from. It is monstrously cruel to deny shelter to 130 people over the arcane and dehumanizing protocols of the CPB, but sadly it is not only unsurprising but likely only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the U.S. government and the handling of future climate refugees.
Original reporting by Christina Maxouris and Eric Levenson at CNN.com
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Colin Taylor is the managing editor of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.