Laws and mercy both: Trump should welcome Bahamas evacuees – Washington Examiner

On Saturday morning, a cruise ship carried 1,435 evacuees from the devastated Bahamas into the port at West Palm Beach, Florida. Most of those on board were Bahamian citizens, but more than 40 nations were represented among the refugees welcomed into the U.S. that morning.

Another ferry, carrying hundreds more evacuees, arrived after midnight on Sunday. That ferry also brought a disturbing story of a ferry operator who wrongly kicked off Bahamians who lacked visas to enter the U.S. The truth is that the U.S. isn’t demanding visas from anyone evacuating the Bahamas right now. We are welcoming them as part of our duty to house the homeless.

President Trump should own this moment. Instead of warning about how some gang members may be in the Bahamas, as Trump did on Monday afternoon, or trumpeting restrictions on whom we will admit, the president should go to the port at Palm Beach and hug the Bahamian families coming off the boat, declaring, “Welcome to America.” And he should do what it takes to make sure we help as many victims of Hurricane Dorian as possible.

If Trump visibly and enthusiastically embraced the hurricane victims seeking shelter here, he would send very important messages around the U.S. and abroad: We are a country of both laws and mercy, and both traits are embedded in our national DNA.

America is a nation grounded in a particular morality, specifically the morality of the Bible, which offers the inspiration for the U.S. to be a light unto the nations, and a shining city on a hill. That means it serves as an example of liberty and law, but it also means we are a port in the storm.

An individual has a duty to house the homeless and to aid the stranger. As a nation, we have a duty to take in those who need our help. That doesn’t mean we need to accept everyone everywhere who wants to come to the U.S. Not everyone who wants to come here is fleeing devastation or persecution. And a family displaced from Guatemala or persecuted in Iran should be primarily focused on the need to go to the nearest safe country.

But the Bahamians are our neighbors. We have a national duty toward them of hospitality. That’s exactly why we’ve already taken in hundreds or thousands of evacuees. Our friendship with this next-door neighbor is codified in an agreement that Bahamians can enter the U.S. without a visa.

This is a metaphorical version of the “big beautiful gate” Trump promised in his dreamed-of wall. That image of a big wall with a big gate is one of a nation that exercises its right to determine who enters and who is kept out, but one that exercises that power with mercy and openness, especially preferential toward those in dire need.

Trump should go to Palm Beach and make himself the face of that mercy.

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