After Hurricane Maria two years ago, thousands of Puerto Rican families moved to Connecticut. But, what is the process like for Bahamians who were affected by Hurricane Dorian?
“It’s our intention to provide any humanitarian support that we can,” said New Haven’s Emergency Operations Director Rick Fontana, at a news conference addressing the issue on Monday.
Fontana, Mayor Toni Harp and other city leaders expressed they want to be prepared to welcome Bahamian hurricane victims with open arms.
“They can apply for a visitor visa, which would allow them to come in for a certain amount of time. They can also apply for something known as humanitarian parole,” Immigration Attorney Glenn Formica explained to NBC Connecticut.
Formica said there aren’t currently any quick options for families seeking to leave the islands and start anew here.
Visitor visas, humanitarian parole and even a green card application by a relative could take years to process.
“The easiest thing would be for the president to do an executive order and say TPS—temporary protected status—for people from the Bahamas,” said Formica.
TPS has been granted after natural disasters in the past, following Hurricane Mitch in the late 90s that hit Central America, and the devastating earthquake in Haiti back in 2010.
“It’s the best part of our immigration policy because it’s quick, it’s instant,” Formica explained.
According to Chris George, president of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven, those in need will go to places where they have friends and family.
“We’d like for them to get a warm welcome. Right into an apartment as soon as they arrive,” George said.
In the meantime, Connecticut residents want to pitch in.
“I really hope all of us come together and try and help out the Bahamas,” said Jailin Badiloo from Meriden.
Hartford Fire Chief Reginald Freeman is part of the Caribbean Association of Fire Chiefs. He’s been a liaison with efforts in the Bahamas and says firefighters and law enforcement here in Connecticut have offered to go down to the Bahamas themselves to help.
“If there’s a determination of an additional need absolutely, we would of course assess the skillset, the training and experience, who would like to go, particularly the urban search and rescue experience and they would be deployed through SDEMA,” said Freeman.