Just before dawn on August 29, 2005, New Orleans residents awoke to the torment of hurricane Katrina. The Category 3 storm made landfall with sustained winds of up to 140 miles per hour and a storm surge that inundated the city. Water quickly breached levees and pumping stations designed to keep New Orleans’ sub-sea level wards safe from flooding. Within hours, 80% of the city was underwater.
According to the independent Data Center, Katrina destroyed over 100,000 homes and devastated New Orleans’ infrastructure. The storm claimed almost 2,000 lives. Following Katrina, the city’s population decreased by more than half. The total damages caused by Katrina topped $135 million.
In 2015, the Federal Emergency Management Administration released its 10-year report on hurricane Katrina recovery and relief efforts. The report states, “ten years into the recovery, FEMA continues to support communities and families, working side-by-side with state, local, and tribal partners to finish the job of rebuilding communities.” FEMA has provided more than $22 billion in relief grants and funding to rebuild communities along the Gulf Coast.
It has been 12 years since Katrina, and FEMA still maintains a presence in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas and no one in the federal government has questioned the agency’s continued role there.
However, just three weeks after hurricane Maria turned Puerto Rico from paradise to apocalyptic wasteland, Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw FEMA, the military, and other relief assistance from the island. Trump again alienated the people of Puerto Rico — most of whom remain without clean drinking water and basic needs — in an early morning Twitter rant on Thursday.
…We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2017
Mother Nature unleashed her wrath on the island. However, Donald Trump is responsible for turning Puerto Rico into an isolated concentration camp in the middle of a “big ocean, a really, really big ocean surrounded by big ocean water.” Trump has elevated his need to build walls between America and her Latino neighbors to a deplorable refusal to provide necessary humanitarian relief to Puerto Rico.
Trump has politicized the crisis in Puerto Rico to a point that during a Thursday press conference, his chief of staff John Kelly was asked if Trump “believed residents of Puerto Rico are American citizens.”
If FEMA can remain in New Orleans for over a decade demonstrates the Trump regime’s ignorant and bigoted attitude toward Puerto Rico. His Thursday morning threats come on the heels of an ongoing Trump fueled feud with the island’s residents and San Juan’s mayor. Trump also received widespread rebuke following a botched visit to the island during which he impersonated the Harlem Globe Trotters by shooting free throws with paper towels as his contribution to the relief efforts.
Throughout this intense hurricane season, Trump has consistently suggested — again, via Twitter as the official means of White House communication — that the federal government will never leave Texas and Florida. All he has done for Puerto Rico is to attempt comically to say “Puerto Rico” with an accent that is unrecognizable in any language.
It is obscene and sadistic that Trump wakes up each morning to close his eyes to the devastation and suffering that has gripped the island of Puerto Rico. As a Commonwealth Territory of the United States, Puerto Ricans deserve no less than any other citizens of any other state of the nation do and Trump has a sworn responsibility to provide relief, support, and every conceivable FEMA resource for ten years…or longer.
As the crisis in Puerto Rico not only continues, but also escalates, Trump must be held responsible for his malignant and deliberate indifference to his duty to the island. While they may not be able to vote, every citizen of Puerto Rico who has been affected by Trump’s wanton disregard must demand that their elected officials send a clear message to the federal government. It is time that they demand that Trump be prosecuted for the reckless endangerment of every man, woman, and child on the island without water, sanitary living conditions, medical attention, or any other basic need.
Puerto Ricans deserve the same assistance, recovery, and rebuilding efforts as America has witnessed in New Orleans, Miami, and Houston. Not only Puerto Ricans must demand this, but every American of every other state. We must unite and demonstrate to the Trump regime that even a wall of water — “really big ocean water” — cannot separate our one nation.