Opinion

OPINION: What is America really doing for Puerto Rico?

By Tashnah Dixon

On Wednesday, September 20th, the island of Puerto Rico was struck by Hurricane Maria, which at a category 4 was the most powerful hurricane to hit the country in 89 years. That was the second hurricane to hit in them in one month. Along with the houses, Maria managed to take down 1,360 of the 1,600 cell towers on the island, and according to experts, this could take somewhere between four to six months to repair. Now the island of 3.5million people sits without power, clean water, and cell coverage.

The question here is ‘What is America doing for Puerto Rico?’

During the weekend following Maria making landfall on the island, the president of the United States was silent. And when he did take to social media again he was busy picking fights with the NFL instead of addressing the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

A Puerto Rican living in the America took to Twitter in response to Trump’s silence on the issue saying “If anybody reaches their families in Puerto Rico, tell them to #TakeAKnee” – a reference to the kneeling NFL players. “Maybe we’ll get noticed then.”

What people seem to be forgetting is that Puerto Ricans are American citizens just as much as any American on the mainland. These are individuals with the same laws and rights as others, and they deserve the same attention, aid, and sympathy that victims of Harvey, Irma, or even Katrina received on the mainland. And more importantly, beyond citizenship and nationality, these are fellow human beings. A country with men, women, and children, young and old, hardworking nurses, teachers, police officers, even students just like us here at HU who are in need of help.

America is home to 5.1million Puerto Ricans, more than the actual island of Puerto Rico. That means that there are 5.1million people currently in the states who possibly have family, friends, and loved ones on the island with no means of communicating with them or even knowing if they are alive.

A week after Maria and talks of temporarily lifting the Jones Act are had just began to surface but still with no avail. Because some of the vital supplies ships do not meet the requirements of this rule, many willing rescue groups have not been able to access the island. The Jones Act states that any cargo ship entering the island has to carry an American flag and have an American crew. This law has been crushing the island’s economy for decades, but now this is beyond the economy. Lives are at stake. President Trump authorized the waiver on Thursday morning, more than a week since the hurricane, after Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló of Puerto Rico requested that it be temporarily lifted.

Mayor of San Juan, Camen Yulín Cruz made an emotional plea to the public saying “I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency.” The Trump administration has come under serious scrutiny from Puerto Ricans and lawmakers because of the lack of urgency in helping the U.S. territory.

Puerto Rico is on the edge of a humanitarian crisis, and the government is dragging its feet. So I asked again, ‘What is America doing for Puerto Rico?’

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