The Trump administration will reportedly not grant temporary protected status to people who fled the Bahamas as Hurricane Dorian destroyed communities across the islands and left at least 43 people dead in its wake.
The Department of Homeland Security typically grants the status, known as TPS, to refugees of war or environmental disasters, allowing them to live and work in the U.S. until it is safe enough for them to return home.
President Donald Trump said he was considering extending TPS to the people of Bahamas on Monday, though he also claimed, without providing factual data, that there were “very bad people,” including gang members and drug dealers, among the Bahamian refugees.
Any people coming to the U.S. from the hurricane-ravaged islands would have to have proper documents before entering the country, the president told reporters on Monday.
“I don’t want to allow people who 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,” Trump added.
The U.S. has only identified 10 countries whose residents are eligible for TPS, including El Salvador, Haiti, Syria and Yemen. More than 300,000 foreign nationals had temporary protected status as of March, according to the Pew Research Center.
Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas’ northern islands as a Category 5 storm in early September, wiping out entire towns with winds up to 185 miles per hour.
News footage filmed by WSVN Monday shows hundreds of Hurricane Dorian survivors being told to exit a ferry in Freeport, Bahamas, bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, if they didn’t have the proper paperwork.
A Customs and Border Protection official in Florida later expressed confusion to the news station, blaming Balearia, the ferry company, for giving false information in its announcement to the refugees.
The CBP official told WSVN that the Bahamians “would have been processed” if they had reached Fort Lauderdale via the ferry.
This story has been updated to note that Bahamians fleeing the hurricane were forced to leave a ferry to the U.S.