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Trump Sparks Confusion Over Bahamian Evacuee Restrictions

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  • More than 100 people from the Bahamas seeking humanitarian refuge in the U.S. were kicked off a ferry going to Florida for not having proper documentation.
  • The ferry operator said Customs and Border Protection had directed them to remove the undocumented passengers, but CBP officials disputed that claim and said the operator just did not want to wait the time required to process the refugees.
  • Acting Head of the CBP Mark Morgan doubled down on the CBP’s claim Monday, saying that Bahamians could enter the U.S. “whether you have travel documents or not.” 
  • President Trump, however, seemed to contradict that claim later in the day, telling reporters that “Everybody needs totally proper documentation.”

Refugees Turned Away By Ferry Operator

President Donald Trump caused confusion Monday when he told reporters Bahamian victims of Hurricane Dorian needed travel documents to enter the United States, directly contradicting a statement the acting head of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Mark Morgan made earlier in the day.

The United Nations has estimated that around 76,000 people in the Bahamas have been left homeless just over a week after Dorian tore through the country. 

Now, thousands and thousands of people are being evacuated to the U.S., as well as islands in the Bahamas that were not hit as hard by Dorian.

The confusion over evacuee restrictions first started on Sunday when more than 100 people seeking humanitarian refuge in the U.S. were ordered off a ferry that was carrying people from the Bahamas to Florida.

In a video of the incident, a crew member on the Balearia Caribbean cruise ship can be heard telling all passengers who did not have U.S. visas to get off the boat.

Under a standing CBP rule, Bahamian citizens traveling to the U.S. who have a passport, police certification, and no criminal record can enter the U.S. without a visa as long as they are pre-cleared to leave from two specific airports in the Bahamas.

Balearia Caribbean & CBP Point Fingers

Reporter Brian Entin said in a tweet that Balearia Caribbean crew members had explicitly told him they were directed to extend that rule to the people on the boat.

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

On Monday, Balearia Caribbean also pinned the blame on the CBP in a statement to the Miami Herald.

“We boarded these passengers with the understanding that they could travel to the United States without visas, only to later having been advised that in order to travel to Ft. Lauderdale they required prior in-person authorization from the immigration authorities in Nassau,” the statement said.

However, CBP officials denied that claim saying it was the ferry operators that made the decision and not them.

“Their decision to make all those people get off board had nothing to do with CBP,” a CBP spokesperson told the Herald. “The company knew the U.S. would have welcomed all of them even if they didn’t have the documentation.”

“The ferry would have just had to just wait at Port Everglades for about 12 hours for every passenger to be processed and that didn’t make good business sense for them,” the spokesperson added. “So they shifted the blame on CBP.”

Trump Contradicts CBP Head

On Monday, acting head of the CBP Mark Morgan also attempted to clear up the incident in a White House briefing.

“We are not working and telling a cruise line that you cannot allow anyone without documents, that’s just not being done,” Morgan said. “We will accept anyone on humanitarian reasons that needs to come here, we’re going to process them expeditedly.” 

“This is a humanitarian mission,” he added. “If your life is in jeopardy and you’re in the Bahamas and you want to get to the United States, you’re going to be allowed to come to the United States, right, whether you have travel document’s or not.” 

Morgan also noted that people with criminal records would need extra vetting.

A few hours after that briefing, President Trump contradicted Morgan’s statement and told reporters that refugees from the Bahamas did need documents.

“We have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation,” the president said.

“The Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there.”

“I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States — including some very bad people and some very bad gang members, and some very, very bad drug dealers,” he added, before going on to argue that “large sections” of the Bahamas had not been hit by Dorian. 

Just hours after Morgan indicated that the U.S. was loosening visa restrictions, Trump seemed to say the U.S. will tighten the same restrictions.

Department of Homeland Security Statement

Following Trump’s remarks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a statement clarifying visas requirements.

In that statement, the agency essentially reiterated the CBP rule that people from the Bahamas can apply to enter the U.S. without a visa from two specific airports as long as they meet the stated requirements.

However, the statement also added that: “Bahamians arriving to the United States by vessel must be in possession of a valid passport AND valid travel visa.”

DHS’s statement appears to contradict both Morgan’s statement about refugees not needing travel documents, as well as Trump’s statement that all refugees must have travel documents, ultimately making the situation even murkier.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Washington Post) (Miami Herald)

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Three Puerto Rican Officials Fired After Unused Hurricane Maria Aid Found in Warehouse

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  • A video streamed on Facebook Live revealed a warehouse in Puerto Rico stockpiled with unused water, food, medicine, and other emergency supplies from Hurricane Maria.
  • The discovery comes as the island has been rocked by numerous earthquakes, destroying many buildings and leaving thousands without homes.
  • Three officials have been fired over the incident, and protests have broken out calling for the governor to resign.
  • Last week, the Trump Administration released $8.2 billion in aid designated to the island for hurricane recovery after Democrats and Puerto Ricans condemned Trump for withholding the aid over concerns of corruption and mismanagement.  

Aid Discovered 

Three Puerto Rican officials have been fired since a viral video streamed on Facebook Live on Saturday revealed a warehouse containing unused food, water, and other emergency supplies stockpiled from Hurricane Maria.

The video, taken in the southern city of Ponce, was taken by a blogger named Lorenzo Delgado, who filmed himself entering the warehouse. Delgado told reporters that he had been tipped off about the warehouse but did not provide a source.

The live stream quickly prompted massive outrage on social media, and Delgado was soon joined by many others, some of whom took supplies from the warehouse.

Puerto Rican Gov. Wanda Vázquez quickly responded by firing the island’s director of emergency management, Carlos Acevedo. She then called for an investigation.

Acevedo defended his department and his actions and said that while some of the water in the warehouse had been distributed, the other goods were not needed because there was not a shortage of supplies in the area.

Vázquez, however, said she had not been informed about the warehouse until the viral video, and the next day she also fired Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar.

“They weren’t able to personally tell me specifically where these centers were located, what they contained and whether an inventory was completed,” the governor said Sunday.

But many Puerto Ricans believe that Vázquez is responsible.

Activists on Monday called for island-wide demonstrations calling for the Vázquez to resign. In the capital San Juan, protestors gathered in front of the governor’s mansion.

The recent protests and posts on social media resemble similar protests back in August demanding that then-governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign. 

Those protests started after private messages were leaked that showed the governor and his close advisers mocking ordinary Puerto Ricans, among other things. But the movement quickly morphed into broader protests against government corruption and the botched response to Maria, eventually prompting Rosselló to step down.

Earthquakes

The discovery of the aid in the Ponce warehouse comes as Puerto Rico has been shaken by significant earthquakes and tremors for nearly a month now.

Since December 28, the island has experienced ongoing earthquakes of varying sizes. The biggest was a 6.4 magnitude that hit on Tuesday, Jan. 7, immediately following a 5.8 magnitude quake the day before.

The island was hit again with a 5.9 magnitude on Sunday, Jan. 11.

The earthquakes have created devastation all over the island, causing houses, schools, churches, and other buildings to collapse. Earthquakes of these magnitudes might not cause so much wreckage in other places, but Puerto Rico is riddled with buildings not up to code or retrofitted for earthquake resilience.

As a result, thousands of people have been displaced, with many seeking shelter in government camps. Thousands of others whose houses are still intact have also taken to sleeping in their cars or outside in public areas out of fear that their houses will collapse on them.

These earthquakes are a massive setback for Puerto Ricans, who are still struggling to recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

Many of those recovery efforts have been stalled by allegations of government corruption and mismanagement of disaster relief and funding, which in turn has caused levels of distrust in the government among Puerto Ricans, especially as numerous high-ranking officials have been arrested on corruption charges.

This has been the subject of recent tensions between Puerto Rico and the Donald Trump Administration.

Trump has long accused Puerto Rican leaders of corruption, which he has cited for his administration’s efforts to delay disaster aid after Maria.

For a while now, the administration has been criticized for withholding more than $18 billion in federal funding that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designated to the island after Maria.

After the earthquakes, those criticisms were sparked again by both Democrats and Puerto Ricans. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called the withholding of aid “illegal,” and others called on the president and HUD to release the aid.

The Trump administration did approve the aid Wednesday, though it also placed strict restrictions on how the aid can be spent. The same day, Trump also approved a major emergency declaration in the areas of Puerto Rico most affected by the earthquakes.

That declaration will allow federal funds to be allocated to the island, though it is unclear how much.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (NBC News)

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Sanders and Warren Disagree Over CNN Report That Alleges Sanders Said a Woman Couldn’t Win the Presidency

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  • A CNN report released on Monday alleges that Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in 2018 that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency, according to four anonymous sources.
  • Sanders has denied the claim, calling it “ludicrous.” 
  • The Washington Post later reported a source as saying that Sanders did not say he did not believe a woman could be president, but rather said Trump would use “nefarious tactics” against the Democratic nominee. 
  • Warren stood by the original allegation, saying that Sanders disagreed with her that a woman could win the White House but added she didn’t want to discuss the matter any further, calling him an ally and a friend.

Allegations

A CNN report released on Monday detailed a December 2018 meeting between presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in which Sanders allegedly said that he did not believe a woman could win the election. 

The report said that its details of that encounter were based on accounts from four anonymous people, two that Warren spoke with soon afterward, and two “familiar with the meeting.” 

Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, called the assertion a “lie,” and the Vermont senator denied the claim himself in a statement. 

“It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win,” Sanders told CNN. 

According to The Washington Post, two people with knowledge of the 2018 meeting told the news outlet that Warren asked Sanders if he thought a woman could win the White House. One of these sources said that Sanders did not say he believed a woman couldn’t win, but rather that Trump would use “nefarious tactics” against the Democratic candidate.  

“What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could,” Sanders said in his statement. “Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”

But later on Monday night, Warren stood by the initial allegation in a statement tweeted by her communications director.

“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate,” Warren said. “I thought a woman could win; [Sanders] disagreed.” 

“I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry,” she added.

Online Reactions

Regardless of who said what, both Warren and Sanders supporters were quick to jump online with their opinions. 

Many Twitter users expressed anger at the Massachusetts senator, accusing her of lying about Sanders’ comments in order to get ahead in the race. #RefundWarren began trending on Monday night, encouraging people to request refunds for donations to her campaign.

Meanwhile, Sanders supporters fell back on instances in the past where he has been explicit about his belief in equal gender opportunities.

On the flip side, others expressed their belief in Warren’s claims, arguing that she had nothing to gain from being untruthful. Many pledged their unwavering support despite the events unfolding.

Others took to Twitter to neutralize the situation, suggesting that pitting two Democratic candidates against each other does nothing productive for the party.

Warren-Sanders Relationship

While Warren called her and Sanders long-time “friends and allies in this fight,” their unspoken civil pact has faced obstacles recently. 

On Sunday, Politico reported that Sanders volunteers were issued a script that criticized Warren. 

In a campaign appearance on Sunday, Warren said she was “disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” and verbalized her hopes that he redirects his campaign for the sake of not dividing their mutual political party. 

Sanders denied ever personally attacking Warren and said that each campaign has hundreds of employees who “sometimes say things that they shouldn’t.” 

Both the script and he-said-she-said drama unfolded right before the seventh Democratic debate, in which six candidates will be participating—including both Warren and Sanders. The debate will be held in Iowa, which is also where the first-in-the-nation caucuses will take place in about three weeks.  

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Axios)

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Sarah Sanders Apologizes To Joe Biden After Debate Tweet About Stuttering

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  • At a Democratic presidential debate on Thursday, Joe Biden noted that he personally keeps in touch with children who have speech impediments, speaking with a stutter as he referenced one.
  • Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted in response, mocking his delivery.
  • Sanders faced a wave of backlash in response to her tweet.
  • She apologized after Biden himself, who has personally struggled with a stutter for most of his life, condemned her directly.

Controversial Tweet

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologized on Thursday after posting a tweet that seemed to mock people with speech impediments. 

Sanders’ post, which has since been deleted, was in response to comments Joe Biden made on Thursday at the sixth Democratic presidential debate, held on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. 

At one point, Biden was speaking to the efforts he makes to be accessible to the public. He referenced the “call list” he and his wife have of people with whom they regularly stay in touch. Among these, he said, is a “little kid who says ‘I can’t talk, what do I do?’” Biden stuttered over the “I” and the “what” for emphasis.

“I have scores of these young women and men who I keep in contact with,” he added. 

Biden has been open in the past about the stutter he has struggled with for most of his life, most prominently in an interview published last month in The Atlantic. In that piece, he opened up about the ways in which his speech impediment has brought him strife, from being bullied as a child to tripping him up during political speeches. 

Shortly after Biden’s comments at the debate, Sanders took to Twitter to address them.

“I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about,” she wrote, adding the hashtag #Demdebate.

Sanders Slammed

Sanders’ remark was met with a wave of backlash from people across the Internet.

Sanders attempted to recover from her initial comment in a follow-up tweet that has also been deleted.

“To be clear was not trying to make fun of anyone with a speech impediment,” she wrote. “Simply pointing out I can’t follow much of anything Biden is talking about.” 

It wasn’t until Biden responded to her directly in a tweet of his own, pointing to his own struggles, that Sanders apologized.

“I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter,” he wrote. “And it’s my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same. It’s called empathy. Look it up.”

“I actually didn’t know that about you and that is commendable,” Sanders replied. “I apologize and should have made my point respectfully.”

Biden used the exchange with Sanders to encourage donations to his presidential campaign.

“If you believe we need to bring empathy back to the White House chip in $5,” he wrote, adding a link to a donation page.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Vox) (New York Times)

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