NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Bahamas Ambassador to the United States Sidney Collie revealed that while there were petitions from Bahamians seeking temporary protected status (TPS) in the United States following Hurricane Dorian, The Bahamas government never made an official request.
Collie made the comments in an interview with Eyewitness News on the sidelines of the 2019 Boxing Day Junkanoo.
The deadly Category 5 storm ravaged Grand Bahama and Abaco in early September, leaving thousands displaced, hundreds missing and at least 70 dead.
There were several petitions and calls on the U.S. government to grant TPS to Bahamians impacted by the storm, which would have allowed them to live and work in the country.
However, the White House announced in the days following the storm that it did not plan to invoke TPS for those currently in the United States.
Asked about the matter, Collie said, “The question about whether Bahamians would have been afforded that particular special status because we are close neighbours and historically there are close ties, it has to be a government request.
“The Bahamas government never requested that kind of status for Bahamian victims.
“I’m aware that there are many Bahamians who have family members and friends who went to the United States, but they followed the procedure, they established protocol and they went in and when their time is up, they have to leave.
“So as it stands now, the U.S. has not changed its immigration policies.”
On September 12, U.S. democratic senators led by Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, introduced the Bahamas Temporary Protected Status of 2019 bill.
The bill seeks to give The Bahamas TPS for 18 months and provide humanitarian protection for eligible Bahamian citizens who are unable to return home due to the devastating storm.
The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship in early October.
Collie underscored on Thursday morning that the U.S. law regarding TPS only affects foreigners who have already been in The United States.
“They must have been residents either legally or sponsored by family members and employers,” he said.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processed more than 4,000 evacuees from The Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian.
However, a CBP public affairs officer told Eyewitness News Online the majority were US Citizens living in The Bahamas.
Hundreds of Bahamian evacuees living in Florida under temporary visa status have been advised not to seek employment, which could jeopardize that allowance.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has called on those Bahamians to return home in order to help in rebuilding the storm ravaged areas.
However, many of those evacuees have said they have no home and no job to return to.