TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida is deferring to the federal government response to the hurricane-ravaged parts of the Bahamas, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday.
DeSantis, who along with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott received an aerial tour of the Bahamas on Friday from the U.S. Coast Guard, said the U.S. Department of State is responsible for orchestrating recovery efforts for the foreign nation, which got slammed last week by the deadly Category 5 Hurricane Dorian.
"The idea that it should be the state's responsibility, if you think that then you have no idea how our system of government works," DeSantis said while making an appearance at Florida State University. "I've been in contact with them. The idea that I would overstep the State Department is just absurd."
DeSantis also declined to weigh in on requests to President Donald Trump by Rubio, Scott and others from both political parties to waive some visa requirements for Bahamians who were impacted by Hurricane Dorian and have family in the U.S.
"People are using visas now," DeSantis said. "The president is working with the Bahamian government. But I think the main thing they're trying to do is keep people in the Bahamas and bring them to safety. Most of the Bahamas was not affected by this, fortunately. You have one island that was really flattened."
DeSantis' comments came as Scott and the Florida Democratic Party on Monday called for more clarity regarding visa entry requirements. On Sunday, more than 100 people attempting to flee the Bahamas without proper documents were reported to have been stranded by a ferry operator.
"Those who have lost their documents in the storm or cannot receive a response from an overwhelmed Bahamian government shouldn't have to endure another tragedy of not being able to get to safety," Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a prepared statement Monday.
Scott, a Republican who was succeeded by DeSantis as governor in January, said in a statement Monday that "it's important Customs and Border Protection and the Bahamian government work together."
Rubio, who sent out a series of tweets and videos of the devastation in the Abaco Islands, described what he witnessed as "a borderline catastrophic situation."
"There are some real logistical challenges that we have to work on," Rubio, R-Fla., said during a news conference in Opa-locka.
In his tweets, Rubio expressed concerns about being able to deliver supplies to Abaco, which could hinder humanitarian efforts underway across Florida and the world.
"Abaco is impossible to supply right now, rendering it increasingly uninhabitable for approximately 2,000 people on the ground," Rubio tweeted.
Rubio on Sunday urged U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green to ask the Department of Defense to reposition the hospital ship USNS Comfort to the Bahamas.
After the aerial tour, Scott called on the United Nations to join the U.S. in support of the recovery efforts.
"It is my hope that every member of the United Nations will step up and join us as we do everything we can to support our friends in the Bahamas as they recover," Scott wrote to U.N. Secretary-General António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres.
The United Nations had announced Thursday that its World Food Programme agency was in the Bahamas assessing the damage, had purchased eight tons of ready-to-eat meals as part of a $5.4 million funding package, and was starting to airlift in satellite communications equipment, storage units, generators and prefab offices. It also announced that it anticipated "procuring and distributing up to 85 tons of ready-to-eat meals for the most affected communities."