Death and devastation in Bahamas after Dorian
More than 70,000 Bahamians were left homeless and pleading for food, water, and other assistance after Hurricane Dorian’s Category 5 winds flattened two of the country’s islands, leaving them strewn with beached boats, splintered houses, and dozens, possibly hundreds, of bodies. Amid reports that Bahamians were not getting enough emergency aid and were trying to flee the Abacos and Grand Bahama islands, President Trump said the U.S. would not welcome evacuees without proper documentation, warning of the risk of admitting “very bad people,” including “drug dealers” and “gang members.” Hours earlier, Customs and Border Protection acting chief Mark Morgan blamed “confusion” after more than 100 survivors without U.S. visas were ordered off a ferry traveling to Fort Lauderdale. He said Bahamians could enter “whether you have travel documents or not.” Adding to the confusion, the Department of Homeland Security later said evacuees traveling by ship required valid passports and travel visas, while visa waivers could be granted to some who fly to the U.S.
Dorian left parts of the Bahamas looking like “nuclear bombs [had been] dropped on them,” said Mark Green, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID pledged $2.8 million in humanitarian assistance, and the United Nations $1 million. While Dorian mostly missed the U.S., some 135,000 people on North Carolina’s Outer Banks lost power and hundreds of homes were flooded. In the Bahamas, relief efforts face immense logistical challenges, with airports and roads torn apart. “It is impossible to prepare for an apocalypse,” said Bahamian Health Minister Duane Sands.
What the columnists said
Even “in the wake of disaster,” Trump can’t curb his scorn of “people from largely black countries,” said Eugene Scott in WashingtonPost.com. We got a taste of this bigotry in 2018 when the president reportedly told a bipartisan group of lawmakers that he didn’t want any more immigrants from “shithole countries,” adding, “Why do we need more Haitians?” For our president, skin color seems to be a deciding factor in whether a person fleeing devastation and misery deserves aid and sanctuary.
Trump could “own this moment,” said the Washington Examiner in an editorial. He “should go to the port at Palm Beach and hug the Bahamian families coming off the boat,” telling them, “Welcome to America.” After all, Trump has repeatedly promised that a “big beautiful gate” would be an essential part of his border wall. By welcoming neighbors in dire need, he would send an important message to the world: That “we are a country of both laws and mercy.”
America used to display its greatness when other countries were struck by natural disasters, said Mona Charen in TheBulwark.com. After a tsunami smashed into Indonesia in 2004, President George W. Bush sent a flotilla of more than 30 ships loaded with aid. When an earthquake shattered Haiti in 2010, President Obama deployed the Marines to clear debris and rebuild infrastructure. But in the wake of Dorian, all Trump could say was, “We are sending crews to help.” Where are the hospital ships and the food and water? His smallness has “become our smallness.” ■