Bahamian refugees of Dorian need America’s helping hand

Hundreds of people who were displaced by Hurricane Dorian gather at a port that was turned into a distribution and evacuation center in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, on Sept. 7. Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Carolyn Van Houten

The Trump administration is sadly not extending temporary protected status.

Hundreds of people who were displaced by Hurricane Dorian gather at a port that was turned into a distribution and evacuation center in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, on Sept. 7.
Hundreds of people who were displaced by Hurricane Dorian gather at a port that was turned into a distribution and evacuation center in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, on Sept. 7. Photo Credit: Julia Larsen Maher

The Bahamas are still paralyzed by the shocking force of Hurricane Dorian, a category 5 storm that hovered over parts of the archipelago for almost two days. Homes have been destroyed, and many are seeking refuge elsewhere. It’s going to be a steep climb to normalcy.

Yet President Donald Trump is doing the opposite of extending an open hand to the neighbors just off the coast of Florida. His public support has been too paltry, and it appears that Trump’s administration will not offer Bahamians the immigration relief program known as temporary protected status, which allows individuals to work here for a provisional period until conditions in their homeland improve. Bahamians can still travel to the United States with documentation.

The conditions that trigger TPS can include man-made horrors or environmental disasters — like hurricanes. Honduras and Nicaragua were designated for TPS in the 1990s after Hurricane Mitch. More recently, Nepalese nationals received the protection after a 2015 earthquake.

The devastation of Dorian and the proximity of the Bahamas to the United States would suggest that TPS makes sense in this case. This status is likely to be for a short time while this economically strong nation rebuilds.

Unfortunately, Trump’s few words on the disaster expressed his concern about “bad people” and “gang members” getting in.

Vetting and process are important, but that screening is not incompatible with a humanitarian effort.

TPS has been part of America at its best. The program is for people already in the United States who can’t safely return home, but the federal government has extended protections to people who fled atrocious conditions. Trump has been stymied by the federal courts in his effort to end TPS for tens of thousands from Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan and Nicaragua.

Every day and in every way, Trump sees political gains in making it a little harder for people to get to America, for temporary or permanent stays, unless they are working at his resorts and golf clubs. The anti-immigrant drip drop is adding up, and it’s changing this country.

The Editorial Board