Florida Gov Ron DeSantis speaks about Hurricane Dorian during a press conference at the Orange County Emergency Operations Center on August 30.
Photo: Stephen M Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP
HURRICANE Dorian’s devastation and aftermath has drawn the attention of some of the top US government officials in Florida.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said on Thursday that his state’s businesses and citizens are prepared to help Bahamians affected by the storm but the relief must be provided in this country, not his state.
“If you just need the relief, that’s not what Florida’s set up for,” he said. “Florida is helping to send resources to the Bahamas so the relief can be administered there.”
He said he understood the Trump administration’s decision to deny Temporary Protected Status to Bahamian storm victims, which would have allowed them to live and work legally in the US while Grand Bahama and Abaco recover from the storm.
“TPS is only for people who are already here,” he said, “so I think when people are saying ‘oh, let the people who come get it,’ but that’s not what it’s for. TPS is if you’re in the United States, something happens in your home country, then you can apply for it. So, I don’t even think it’s applicable and I think the Bahamian government has not asked for it. And so I just don’t think it would even apply.”
For his part, US Senator Marco Rubio said helping The Bahamas is a moral imperative and a way of fending off China’s influence in a country so near the US.
In an opinion piece he wrote for the Miami Herald, Mr Rubio wrote: “For many of us in South Florida, the devastation in The Bahamas caused by Hurricane Dorian is personal. Not only have we lived through destructive hurricanes, but Bahamians are our friends, neighbours and family members. The majority of Bahamian-Americans reside in the state of Florida and our ties to the forebears’ nation remain a source of great cultural and economic nourishment... By devoting available military and medical assets to the recovery effort, we have the ability to help our afflicted neighbours and family members and save Bahamian lives. I am advocating these measures because directing resources to assist Bahamians is the right thing to do. But there exists an additional imperative on the security national level, as well: if we fail to rise to the occasion, China will step in to seize the moment and exploit the recovery for its own nefarious purposes.”
Mr Rubio said Dorian’s destruction has created a situation tailor made for China’s exploitation.
An official from the Chinese embassy in Nassau has rebuffed such suggestions. Haigang Yin, an embassy spokesman, told the Nassau Guardian that China is not trying to compete with any other country to provide relief to the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.