By Ted Scouten


MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The U.S. government is working to clarify immigration policy after dozens of families on their way to Florida from the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas were booted off a ferry.

Over the weekend, hundreds lined up in Freeport hoping to get a boat or flight out to Florida or Nassau.

CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald reported about 400 were able to get on the Balearia Caribbean fast ferry to Fort Lauderdale.

However, according to the Miami Herald, 103 were left behind – asked to get off just before departure after checking for U.S. visas.

In contrast, on Saturday, more than 1,000 Bahamian evacuees arrived at the Port of Palm Beach on a cruise ship. They were told they can stay 30 days without a visa.

Acting Customs and Border Protection Chief Mark Morgan said it could get tricky with some many people wanting to leave.

“There’s gonna be some confusion. What I will say is that’s what it was,” Morgan said. “CBP, we’re not working and telling a cruise line that you cannot allow anyone without documents. That’s just not being done.”

CBS4 reached out to Balearia Caribbean and have not heard back.

Morgan said CBP has beefed up resources to make the process smoother.

“I’ve authorized the deployment of an enormous amount of resources to South Florida to make sure that we can effectively receive people who are coming in from the Bahamas,” he said.

While Florida’s senators are urging the president to waive some visa requirements, the president is talking tough.

“Everybody needs totally proper documentation,” President Donald Trump 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 who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers.”

Meanwhile, long-term recovery coalitions from the Keys to Palm Beach are keeping a close eye on how many people are coming to South Florida.

While most are staying with family when they arrive, help organizations want to be ready to assist if they are needed.

“We receive them with open arms. They are our neighbors, they are our friends,” said Sandra Veszi Einhorn with the Broward Long Term Recovery Coalition. “We’re really being just proactive in letting people know what existing resources are out there and how family members coming into Broward County are able to access those services and programs.”

Ted Scouten

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