Florida-bound evacuees from Bahamas asked to get off ferry

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President Donald Trump defended on Monday the policy requiring Bahamian evacuees to have USA visas by claiming without evidence that "gang members" and "drug dealers" were trying to get into the country with the evacuees.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House, the president - who has made strict immigration regulations a pillar of his presidency - said that "everyone needs totally proper documentation".

According to Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Michael Silva, the ferry operator failed to properly coordinate the evacuation with the American Embassy, the Bahamian government and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Rubio and Florida's other USA senator, Rick Scott, have asked President Donald Trump's administration to waive visa requirements altogether for Bahamian storm victims with relatives in the us, but Trump indicated Monday that he wants to keep stringent vetting in place in part because of "people going to the Bahamas that weren't supposed to be there".

"Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas, and now we are turning away the people who most need our help", he wrote.

Under existing USA policy, Bahamians can bypass the visa process by providing a passport and proof of no criminal record and going through a pre-screening conducted by CBP in Freeport and Nassau.

"All passengers that don't have a United States visa, please proceed to disembark", the announcement said, according to a video posted to Twitter by Entin.

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"The Bahamas has some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren't supposed to be there", Trump said. The difference, according to CBP, was that Paradise had coordinated the voyage with Bahamian government and USA officials in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.

Democrats and Republicans from Florida on Monday urged the administration to clear up the confusion. "If they worked with us, we would have been there to facilitate that process", an official told Entin.

Crew members aboard the Balearia in Freeport, Grand Bahama, told 119evacuees without valid US visas they would have to disembark because US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) warned "in a last-minute call" they would not be admitted to the US on arrival in Fort Lauderdale.

"CBP continues to process the arrivals of passengers evacuating from the Bahamas according to established policy and procedures - as demonstrated by the almost 1,500 Hurricane Dorian survivors who arrived at the Port of Palm Beach, Fla., aboard a cruise ship on Saturday and were processed without incident", a CBP spokesman said in a statement.

Over the weekend, almost 1,500 evacuees arrived in Palm Beach, Florida, on board the Grand Celebration humanitarian cruise ship.

An estimated 70,000 people have been left without a roof over their heads.

"This is a humanitarian mission", Morgan said. The entire extended family together earned about $800 a month, not enough to buy insurance, said Synobia Reckley, 25, who traveled from the island's main city, Freeport, to help her family. "They were not ordered off the boat by any government entity - any U.S. government entity", the officer said. None were required to show visas when they disembarked in Florida. The severity of the damage the islands incurred from Hurricane Dorian is hard to conceptualize. "And chose to leave instead of waiting a few hours to complete process". But administration officials had tried to spin their complicated requirements as routine vetting - until Trump said the quiet part out loud.