Update: CBP is blaming the ferry company for what happened:

Statement from CBP:

Original post:

There’s some major confusion happening right now in the Bahamas as hundreds of people attempting to evacuate from Freeport to Fort Lauderdale on a ferry were reportedly forced off this ship because they didn’t have a visa:

From what we’ve read, Bahamanians who fly to the U.S. pre-clear customs on the island and thus have different requirements from those traveling to the U.S. on a ship or third country where a visa is needed. From CBP:

All Bahamians who seek to enter the United States from a third country, or who apply for admission to The United States at anywhere other than the Pre-clearance Facilities located in Nassau or Freeport, are required to be in possession of a valid visa to enter the United States.

Travelers should be aware that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance Station hours of operation may change with short notice, especially in emergency situations (such as hurricane watches.) Bahamians whose individual hurricane plans include travel to the United States should consider applying for U.S. visas well in advance.

CBP has been working with private vessels to pre-clear evacuees, which sounds like that wasn’t done with this ferry tonight:

Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan tweeted that these are the same policies that have always been in place and that nothing has been changed: