Posts tagged with "Hurricane Maria"

As the president shirks disaster relief efforts, House lawmakers push for statehood for Puerto Rico

April 1, 2019

On March 28—the same day on which the president fatuously stated,” “Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump [since the destruction of Hurricane Maria] than by any living human being, and I think the people of Puerto Rico understand it”—Congress introduced a bill that would entitle the commonwealth to all of the disaster relief that reaches political entities on the U.S. mainland.

The Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2019, which was introduced by Representative Darren Soto (D-Florida) and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, a Republican who represents the island in the House, would grant Puerto Rico equal civil rights and status as the 51st state within 90 days of passage.

“From the day I was sworn in as Puerto Rico’s sole representative in Congress, and filed the Puerto Rico Admission Act, I stated very clearly that I would work different strategies, across all platforms to achieve the full equality for Puerto Rico, which can only be achieved through statehood,” Gonzalez said in a news release.

According to a report by CNN, the move to sponsor legislation came as the Republican-controlled Senate considered a new disaster relief package for the territory—and as tensions continued to flare between President Donald Trump and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who supports the bill.

“Puerto Rico’s colonial status and unsustainable relationship with the federal government has gone on for over a century, even as our citizens have contributed to the growth, culture, and social fabric of the United States; and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our fellow citizens on battlefields around the globe and under our same flag,” Rosselló, said in the release.

Indeed, the legislation is badly needed, in order to get the type of aid to the island that is needed for the infrastructure to be rebuilt, more rapidly and completely than has been done to date.

Although he expects credit from the people of Puerto Rico, President Trump still is being castigated for a visit he made to the devastated island after the hurricane, in early October 2017—during which he threw paper towels to the media and local representatives at a press conference and congratulated Puerto Rico residents for escaping the higher death toll of a “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”

Since that time, the president consistently has challenged efforts to provide more adequate disaster funding and food stamp coverage for the island. Although the territory is still recovering economically, Trump reportedly told Senate Republicans last week that he questioned the wisdom of sending the island additional disaster relief aid, CNN said.

In Thursday’s news release, Soto referenced disaster relief efforts as a reason to give Puerto Rico statehood.

“We have seen time and time again that colonial status is simply not working,” Soto said. “Look no further than the abysmal Hurricane Maria recovery efforts and the draconian PROMESA law [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act] to prove this point all too well.”

Research contact: @CNNPolitics

As Florence nears landfall, DHS diverts $10M in FEMA funds to cover cost of ICE detention centers

September 13, 2018

Just as political pundits are predicting that the president’s response to Hurricane Florence—forecast to be the strongest storm “in decades”—will either make or break the GOP’s chances in the midterm elections, disturbing news has been released by The New York Times.

In a September 12 report, the Times reveals that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transferred nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to a budget document released by a Democratic senator on September 11—diverting funds from the relief agency at the start of the hurricane season that began in June. The story hits comes even as Florence barrels toward the East Coast.

The document, which was released by the office of Senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, shows that the money would come from FEMA’s operations and support budget and be transferred into accounts at ICE to pay for detention and removal operations. The document also shows that the Department of Homeland Security transferred money from accounts at Customs and Border Protection that pays for border fencing and technology.

Merkley, appearing Tuesday night on  MSNBC’S The Rachel Maddow Show, said the Trump administration was taking money from FEMA’S “response and recovery” and “working hard to find funds for additional detention camps.” The senator has been a vocal critic of the administration’s immigration policies.

The document casts doubt on DHS’s denials that such a transfer occurred. “Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts,” Tyler Q. Houlton, an agency spokesperson, said on Twitter. “This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster.”

Holton added that money transferred from FEMA could not have been used to pay for hurricane relief efforts because of “appropriation limitations.”

“DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs,” he said.

The release of the budget documents showing the money transfers between FEMA and ICE came after President Trump in an interview called last year’s hurricane response efforts by FEMA in Puerto Rico an “unsung success”

“The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous,” Trump told the media.

In an early Wednesday morning Twitter post, the POTUS doubled down on the agency’s performance and got a jab in at San Juan officials: “We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!”

New data show that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria and many people continue to live without power on the island. An after-action report by FEMA released in July found that they agency vastly underestimated how much food and fresh water it would need, the Times said—as well as how hard it would be to get additional supplies to the island.

Research contact: @nytimes