President Donald Trump commented Monday on the United States’ response to refugees of Hurricane Dorian after more than 100 Bahamians were asked to disembark a ferry headed to the U.S. Sunday night, according to CNN.
Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan stated earlier in the day, according to NPR, that “anyone on humanitarian reasons that needs to come here” would be accepted into the country. But Trump took a different line with reporters in front of the White House on Monday.
“We have to be very careful,” Trump said, according to NBC News. “Everybody needs totally proper documentation because the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there.”
Trump continued, “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.”
CNN noted that Trump did not make clear what he was referring to.
Earlier in the day, Morgan had claimed, “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.”
The aftermath of Hurricane Dorian has left at least 45 people dead and 70,000 homeless in the Bahamas, while hundreds still remain missing, according to CNN. Many parts of the islands are still without power.
Reports emerged on Sunday that a ferry headed to Florida ordered over 100 Bahamian refugees to disembark if they “did not have visas,” according to the Washington Post.
Morgan is placing blame on the incident on “confusion,” according to CNN.
“You can imagine in any type of natural disaster like this where you have this huge disaster, a lot of resources going on and responding, there’s going to be some confusion,” Morgan said. “What I will say is, that’s what it was.”
Customs and Border Protection officials said it was a decision of the ferry company to remove the refugees.
“If those folks did stay on the boat and arrived, we would have processed them, vetted them and worked within our laws and protocols and done what we had to do to facilitate them. They were not ordered off the boat by any U.S. government entity,” the CBP officials said, according to the Washington Post.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have come out in support of displaced Bahamians.
In response to reports of Bahamians being turned away from the U.S., Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke tweeted, “This is the height of cruelty—denying help to those who need it most.”
Meanwhile, in a letter earlier this week, Florida Reps. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott asked Trump to “suspend certain visa requirements” for displaced citizens of the Bahamas “who have relatives in the United States.”
Rubio tweeted, “Florida has deep ties to the Bahamas,” later adding, “#BahamasStrong.”