Things That Matter

The US Promised Entry To Bahamians Without Visas Following Hurricane Dorian Then Changed Their Mind

Hurricane Dorian landed in the Bahamas islands as a Category 5 storm with winds of 200 mph, leaving at least 44 people dead and 70,000 Bahamians homeless. Rescue workers are still searching for bodies and survivors, nearly a week after the storm finally departed the island. Thousands of survivors are still living in government buildings and churches with no access to water or power after their homes were leveled by the storm. For many Bahamians, there’s nowhere to go.

For the last few days, Florida officials have called on Trump to waive visa requirements for Hurricane Dorian survivors in the Bahamas. Still, the Baleària Caribbean ferry was forced to remove 100 Bahamians from its ship because they didn’t have U.S. visas, per U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s (CBP) regulations.

CBP told Baleària that the ferry would have to detour to Nassau to get U.S. visas for the refugees before arriving in Florida.

Credit: @PortEverglades / Twitter

Instead, the ferry company forced more than 100 Bahamians off the ship, leaving them stranded on an island with nowhere else to go. Michael Silva, a spokesperson for CBP, blamed the ferry company. “It breaks my heart because it’s like when you raise somebody’s hopes and then you pop the balloon… That, in my opinion, is what Baleària did,” Silva told Newsweek. “It raised the expectations of these poor people who have been through an unimaginable situation with the hurricane…They raised their expectations only to then leave them terribly disappointed.”

Now, CBP is changing its story, saying they would have allowed the Bahamians to arrive at a U.S. port and arrange visas on site.

Credit: @CBPFlorida / Twitter

“We would have definitely worked with this transportation company or any other transportation company to…facilitate this process,” Silva told Newsweek. “CBP is not denying or discouraging evacuation efforts and we empathize with the plight of the Bahamian people.” “They were not ordered off the boat by any government entity,” another CBP official told reporter Brian Entin. “If those folks did stay on the boat and arrived, we would have processed them.” For all that Silva said on behalf of CBP, he could not offer a “blanket statement” on whether all Bahamians would be allowed entry to the U.S., making for a confusing process for both refugees and ferry companies.

More than 1,200 Hurricane Dorian survivors arrived in the Port of Palm Beach on Saturday alone.

Credit: @ajplus / Twitter

The Grand Celebration cruise ship conducted a rescue operation, completely free of charge to the refugees who climbed aboard. According to CBP, the company had coordinated with the U.S. government a few days in advance, which is what allowed CBP to ensure everyone would be “properly documented.” Officials told media outlets that additional personnel were sent to Miami to assist in processing the Bahamian refugees. According to reports, CBP claims to have organized with the government and non-profits to ensure that people were at the port to help with housing and medical needs of the people forced from their island after the horrific hurricane.

CBP continues to discredit the company because it charged a ferry fee.

Credit: @BrianEntin / Twitter

According to WSVN Miami reporter, Brian Entin, who was aboard the Baleària, “They say they were told it was ok to accept Bahamian evacuees with passport and copy of police record. They boarded the boat. Then when they sent manifest to US Customs and Border Patrol — they were told those without visas would not be accepted.”

Those Bahamians who have a police record and arrive in the U.S. will immediately be detained by ICE.

Credit: @OscopeLabs / Twitter

CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters that refugees will be allowed to stay in the U.S. for as long as the Bahamas remains unsafe for them to return to. He also added that, under existing immigration laws, Bahamians with criminal histories be entered into deportation proceedings, but that given the circumstances, they will be detained with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

President Trump told reporters that the Bahamas has “some very bad people,” and that CBP must “be very careful” about allowing Bahamians entry.

Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

For Trump, the most important thing in this disastrous situation is that “everybody needs totally proper documentation.” All this to say, ships performing rescue missions or operating, as usual, are still left unclear on CBP protocol moving forward.

READ: As Hurricane Dorian Kills Bahamians, Ann Coulter Thought It Was A Good Time To Make Jokes About The Storm

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Two Weeks Ago He Lost His Home To Hurricane Eta And Now Hurricane Iota Threatens His Entire Community

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Two Weeks Ago He Lost His Home To Hurricane Eta And Now Hurricane Iota Threatens His Entire Community

Once again, the year 2020 is delivering a shocker but this time it‘s in the form of devastation caused by a record-breaking hurricane season. So far, the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season, which is set to end on Nov. 30, has had 30 named storms, 13 of them hurricanes. And six of those hurricanes were considered “major”— Eta and Iota among them — meaning they were Category 3 or higher.

Meteorologists have been forced to use the Greek alphabet to name the new systems after having exhausted the 21-name list that is prepared for each hurricane season. The last time the Greek alphabet was used was in 2005, when there were 28 storms strong enough to be named.

Now, as Hurricane Iota ravages Central America, it’s becoming clear that an imminent humanitarian catastrophe is setting up across the region.

Hurricane Iota is ravaging Central America just two weeks after communities there were hit by Hurricane Eta.

Late on Monday, Hurricane Iota made landfall as a powerful and “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane. Aside form the catastrophic winds and life-threatening storm surge, the hurricane is impacting already devastated communities recently hit by Hurricane Eta.

People across Central America will feel the impacts of this record breaking storm, which is expected to produce up to 30 inches of rain in some areas of Nicaragua and Honduras through Friday. The intense rainfall could lead to significant flash flooding and mudslides in higher elevations, the hurricane center said.

Dozens of Indigenous communities were evacuated throughout the weekend in Nicaragua and Honduras, where the military shared pictures on Twitter of soldiers helping people out of stilted wooden homes and carrying them to safety. One of the soldiers stood in knee deep water, holding a resident’s pink backpack in the same arm as his service weapon.

The forecast, at least, offers some hope for those in Iota’s path. The National Hurricane Center expects the storm to rapidly weaken over the next 36 hours as it moves toward El Salvador across the mountainous terrain of inland Nicaragua and Honduras.

Honduras was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Eta.

Central America is still reeling from Hurricane Eta, which struck less than two weeks ago and made landfall about 15 miles from where Iota did. Aid workers are still struggling to reach communities cut off by washed-out bridges, downed trees and flooded roads.

According to the Red Cross, more than 3.6 million people across the region have been affected by the storms.

Antonio Herrera told Mitú in an interview that his modest home had already been reduced to rubble by Eta. Herrera and his daughter were staying in an improvised shelter but it’s directly in the path of Hurricane Iota. A GoFundMe has been setup to help Herrera and his family recover from the devastation wrought by both hurricanes.

“This Hurricane Iota is a monster,” he said. “After Eta and the damaged it caused, I’m afraid for all of us.”

Herrera added that even without a disaster devastating the region, Honduras is a country where half the population doesn’t have enough food to eat. And now, because of Hurricane Eta, Herrera counts himself among that group of Hondurans.

He adds that, “Honduras is a challenging place just to make sure that the everyday needs are met. And of course, all of this happening during a global pandemic — no possibility of social distancing, obviously, in those sheltering situations.”

Many Central American leaders are blaming climate change for the disasters and are seeking international aid.

Credit: Josue Decavele/Getty Images

As the region is pummeled by storm after storm, the leaders of Honduras and Guatemala have called for in increase in international funding to help combat the effects of climate change – which are having an outsized impact on the region.

“Central America is not the producer of this climate change situation,” the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, said at a news conference. “Instead, we are the most affected.”

President Orlando has called on the United Nations to declare Central America as the region most affected by climate change worldwide.

“Hunger, poverty and destruction do not have years to wait,” said Alejandro Giammattei, the Guatemalan leader. “If we don’t want to see hordes of Central Americans looking to go to countries with a better quality of life, we have to create walls of prosperity in Central America.”

Disclaimer: The author of this story has a personal connection with Antonio Herrera, a victim of these storms in Honduras mentioned in this story. The GoFundMe for Herrera was created before this story was written but was included as many GoFundMe fundraisers are when relevant.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

A New Investigation Uncovered Another 1500 Children Separated By Trump Zero Tolerance Policy

Things That Matter

A New Investigation Uncovered Another 1500 Children Separated By Trump Zero Tolerance Policy

During two months in 2018, the Trump Administration inflicted the separation of undocumented families at the border who were seeking asylum or attempting to cross the southern country line. The policy was called “zero-tolerance,” and at the time of the announcement, former General Jeff Sessions firmly stated at the border that “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple.” He also added, “If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.” That’s exactly what they did. When all was said in done, after the uproar of seeing crying children being taken away from their families and placed in cages, federal courts ordered the Trump Administration to end the policy. The government initially admitted that they had separated almost 3,000 kids from their parents. It turns out they were way, way off. 

A new report shows that the Trump Administration separated 1,556 more children on top of the 2,737 children they previously had admitted to releasing.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

On Oct. 24, after a federal judge ordered the government to release data about the children that were separated in 2018 in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) finally got the figures after six months. 

“The Trump administration admitted to a federal court that it ripped an additional 1,556 parents and children from each other under its illegal family separation policy,” the ACLU said in a statement. 

The court order came after the ACLU sued the government for information on the children after an earlier report in which the government admitted they didn’t know exactly how many children were separated, but it was probably “thousands.”

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

In January, the Department of Health and Human Services and the inspector general said they couldn’t know for sure how many children were separated because they didn’t have proper records

“The total number and current status of all children separated from their parents or guardians by United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and referred to Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) care is unknown,” the report states. That report is what prompted the lawsuit from the ACLU demanding a thorough investigation to find those children. 

Lee Gelernt, lead attorney in the family separation lawsuit and deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, had this reaction to the final figures: “It is shocking that 1,556 more families — including babies and toddlers — join the thousands of others already torn apart by this inhumane and illegal policy. Families have suffered tremendously, and some may never recover. The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated.”

The ACLU has been diligently working hard on finding the children and also suing the government for the trauma they caused the separated families.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

The ACLU filed the class action lawsuit — Ms. L v. ICE — against the government for illegally separating families and instilling lifelong trauma on the victims. 

“The suffering and trauma inflicted on these little children and parents is horrific,” Gelernt said in a statement. “Tragically, it could take years for these families to heal. Some may never recover, but we are fighting to give them a chance.”

The “Zero-Tolerance” Policy began in April 2018 and was forced to end in June 2018. In just that short time, so much damage was caused on vulnerable people seeking asylum. 

While the policy was supposed to end in June of 2018, it was reported that families were still being separated long after that. A New York Times article said that at least 900 families were separated after June 2018.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

“The administration is still doing family separation under the guise that they are protecting children from their parents, even though the criminal history they are citing is either wrong or shockingly minor,” Gelernt told the New York Times in July. “This is just circumventing the court’s order.”

During a panel at a Forbes event, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was in charge during this period, said she had no regrets over making sure the “zero-tolerance” policy was being enforced because she was doing her job. The only reason she left her post was that she was saying “no” too much. 

“I don’t regret enforcing the law, because I took an oath to do that,” Nielsen said, according to CNN. She added that she was there to “enforce the law, not to separate families.”

READ: Government Officials Report That Reuniting Separated Families Will Take Two Years

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