By Emma Friedman
After surviving the monstrous category five hurricane Dorian, about 100 Bahamian refugees were denied entry to the U.S by ferry over documentation confusion on Sunday, Sept. 8.
A viral video originally taken on the ferry, Balearia, in Freeport, Grand Bahama, captured the announcement made when the refugees without documentation were told they were denied entry, “Please, all passengers that don’t have a U.S. visa, please proceed to disembark.”
The following day, Monday, Sept. 9, the Commissioner of U.S Customs and Border Protection, Mark Morgan stated, “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.”
Less than two hours after Morgan’s news conference, President Trump stated, “We have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation because, look, the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there,” contradicting Morgan’s statement completely.
After Dorian hit the Bahamas there were 76,000 people left homeless and at least 50 dead, according to the United Nations. With many people left with nothing and unable to find their families, how are they expected to find a passport? None of the less, apply for a travel visa?
This is a desperate time for the Bahamian people. They want to come to the United States as refugees to stay with their families because they have nowhere else to go. They are not coming here to start crime and “steal their jobs”.
I understand President Trump’s need to make sure that we are not allowing dangerous refugees, as his responsibility is to keep United States citizens safe first. Yet, this is a desperate time and individual refugees without documentation are going through a process of being vetted to determine their intentions and prove they are entering the country for asylum. Morgan stated that the agency has been doing the vetting process already for people without documentation, according to Sanya Mansoor.
Due to this vetting process already in existence and the urgency of the matter, it seems the U.S should not be in need of visas as President Trump is asking for.
Obtaining a visa to enter the U.S from the Bahamas is not that simple. According to the U.S Embassy in the Bahamas, to apply for an immigrant visa the refugee would need to find a U.S sponsor. Then, the sponsor would need to file a petition on the refugees behalf to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Finally, if approved, they can go ahead with the process and apply for an immigrant visa.
This process is time consuming and not the biggest concern for people whose homes have been taken from them and families are missing. Even immigrants who want to stay with family have to follow a similar process that eventually ends in an interview.
Now is not the time for online applications and interviews. Now is the time for the United States to help those who are seeking asylum.
Emma Friedman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org