GOP Governor Ron DeSantis Wants Bahamians Fleeing Hurricane Dorian Destruction To Stop Coming To His State: 'That's Not What Florida's Set Up For'

GOP Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has sought to discourage Bahamians fleeing the destruction of Hurricane Dorian from coming to his state, telling them to stay put and seek relief in their country instead.

"If you just need the relief, that's not what Florida's set up for," DeSantis said at a news conference in Dania Beach, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

"Florida is helping to send resources to the Bahamas so the relief can be administered there," he said.

DeSantis' comments came as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Florida unit continued to process the thousands of Bahamians making their way to the state in search of refuge.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by Hurricane Dorian, while at least 50 people have been declared dead, with the death toll expected to rise as officials continue to try to locate at least 1,300 people who remain missing.

In addition to trying to deter Bahamians from coming to his state, DeSantis also suggested that he supports the Trump administration's decision to deny Temporary Protected Status to those fleeing the Bahamas.

TPS, which would allow Bahamians to live and work legally in the U.S. until their country has recovered sufficiently from the Category 5 storm, is "only for people who are already here," DeSantis said.

"So, I think when people are saying, 'Oh, let the people who came get it.' That's not what it's for," the Florida governor said. "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."

Despite DeSantis' assertions, on Thursday, 17 Democratic U.S. senators, including five 2020 presidential candidates, introduced legislation seeking to grant TPS to "eligible Bahamian citizens" for at least 18 months.

Meanwhile, last Friday, a bipartisan coalition of Florida members of Congress also asked the Trump administration to consider granting Bahamians TPS.

While TPS has been granted to residents of other countries in the wake of natural disasters, including Haitians after a devastating earthquake rocked the country in 2010, the Trump administration has yet to extend any such offer to Bahamians.

On Monday, however, Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan did say that he believes it would be "appropriate" to extend the TPS program to the Bahamas.

While he said there hadn't been "any formal grant of TPS," he said it "would be appropriate to have that circumstance."

Ron DeSantis
Now Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican of Florida, speaks during a rally with U.S. President Donald Trump at Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 2018 during his ultimately successful gubernatorial race. DeSantis has sought to deter Bahamians fleeing the destruction of Hurricane Dorian from coming to Florida. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty