Hundreds of Bahamians attempting to flee the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian were reportedly told to leave a ship if they did not have a visa to enter the United States.
Video posted Sunday on Twitter by Brian Entin, a reporter for Miami-based Fox affiliate WSVN, showed an announcement being made aboard the Balearia ferry, which was transporting evacuees from the Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., saying visas are required for everyone on board attempting to enter the U.S.
Another announcement just made ordering any Bahamian without a US visa to disembark ferry — not allowed to evacuate. They were told before boarding it was ok with Bahamian passport and clean polce record. Something has now changed. pic.twitter.com/m7CnZxoiMM— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
CNN reported that hundreds of Bahamian evacuees were previously allowed into the United States without visas, and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website states visas are not required for Bahamian residents flying into the U.S. from the Bahamas if they also meet other criteria.
That criteria include possessing a valid passport or travel documents, having no criminal record and carrying a police certificate issued within the past six months. Entin reported that the evacuees were told upon boarding the ship that criteria would be enough to enter the states.
"CBP was notified of a vessel preparing to embark an unknown number of passengers in Freeport and requested that the operator of the vessel coordinate with U.S. and Bahamian government officials in Nassau before departing The Bahamas," CBP told The Hill in a statement.
"Everyone who arrives to the United States from another country must present themselves to a CBP officer for inspection at an official CBP Port of Entry. All person must possess valid identity and travel documents," the agency said.
Entin in a follow-up tweet Monday morning interviewed CBP officers in Florida who said they would “have accepted and processed the Bahamians” and blamed the ferry company for the announcement.
Just interviewed @CBPFlorida when we got off ferry in FL. They say they would have accepted and processed the Bahamians, and blame the ferry company Balearia. CBP says they tried to coordinate with Balearia but company "made a business decision" to take the evacuees off the boat. pic.twitter.com/ONkgdcJvS3— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
Here is the full story we put together after getting off the ferry this morning. Hurricane evacuees kicked off the boat. Crew on the boat blamed US Customs and Border Protection, CBP now blames the ferry company @Balearia . pic.twitter.com/QLRcxbALdk— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
Balearia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
Videos of the incident prompted an uproar, with 2020 presidential candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) calling it the “height of cruelty.”
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.— Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeSupport for governors sliding in states without vaccine mandates: survey Abbott bans vaccine mandates from any 'entity in Texas' Abbott disapproval rating up 8 points to 59 percent in San Antonio area: poll MORE (@BetoORourke) September 9, 2019
It's on us to prove we're better than this. https://t.co/TXIlnDai41
Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' Milestone bill would bar imports linked to forest destruction MORE (D-Hawaii), who is not running for president, said, "This must immediately be fixed.”
This must be immediately fixed. https://t.co/PFRe4UW9vU— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) September 9, 2019
Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm last week. More than 40 people have been reported dead, and the death toll is expected to rise.
Updated at 12:01 p.m.