Reports late Wednesday that the Trump administration will not offer Temporary Protected Status to Bahamians displaced by Hurricane Dorian drew outrage from lawmakers and rights advocates, who condemned the decision as an inhumane denial of secure refuge to victims of one of the most powerful and devastating storms in recorded history.
"Let's be clear: This decision is racist and cruel," tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. "We should grant Temporary Protected Status to Bahamians fleeing Hurricane Dorian."
"To deny temporary protected status to a nation so close to our shores, that has experienced such devastation, is morally bankrupt and a black mark on America."
—Sen. Jeff Merkley
Granting TPS, which the Trump administration has attempted to end for other disaster victims, would allow Bahamians to live and work in the United States until it is safe for them to return home.
Experts told the Washington Post that while TPS would typically be granted to victims of a storm like Hurricane Dorian—which destroyed tens of thousands of homes—the White House's stance is not entirely surprising given President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-refugee policy agenda.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) forcefully condemned the Trump administration's reported refusal to offer TPS to Bahamians, a decision that comes just days after Trump smeared Bahamian hurricane victims as "gang members" and "drug dealers."
"After Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas, Donald Trump said we'd be there to help. Then he does this," said Merkley. "To deny temporary protected status to a nation so close to our shores, that has experienced such devastation, is morally bankrupt and a black mark on America."
This is who Trump just denied temporary protected status to. https://t.co/pC6HqRLqwz
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 12, 2019
Reports of the Trump administration's decision came as rights groups rallied outside the Washington, D.C. headquarters of Customs and Border Protection Wednesday night to demand that the U.S. welcome Bahamian refugees.
The rally was announced after hundreds of Bahamians were ordered off a ferry headed for Ft. Lauderdale, Florida because they did not have U.S. visas.
"Shame on Donald Trump for his racist words and policies," said Evan Weber of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, which helped organize the demonstration.
Gathered at Customs and Border Protection with @sunrisemvmt, @UndocuBlack, @BAJItweet, @UNITEDWEDREAM, @CosechaMovement & more to say #HurricaneDorian2019 evacuees are climate refugees and we must #LetThemIn.
— Evan Weber (@evanlweber) September 11, 2019