Trump Lets Puerto Ricans Know That He Views Them As Second Class Citizens
In 2012, Donald Trump took to Twitter to offer harsh words regarding the government’s handling of the damages caused by Hurricane Sandy.
The federal gov. has handled Sandy worse than Katrina. There is no excuse why people don't have electricity or fuel yet.
Five years later, Trump faces the same moral test that all Presidents must reckon with in the midst of a natural disaster. Now, he sits in the Oval Office and his Twitter account will go into the federal record that documents all presidential correspondence.
It’s been over a week since Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico, a commonwealth that houses nearly 3.5 million American citizens, knocking power out of the entire island and leaving half without running drinking water.
During the last ten days, the President of the United States has gotten into a fight with the NFL, deleted multiple tweets about a candidate he endorsed after they lost their primary, and essentially called those fighting for their lives in Puerto Rico freeloaders who “want everything to be done for them.”
Yes, that’s right — while the Mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulin Cruz implored the federal government to pay attention to her people’s plight:
“We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency. I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying. This is a people-are-dying story.”
San Juan mayor: "We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency, and the bureaucracy. We will make it with or without you." https://t.co/NRi5Vp3L5H
The President of the United States played the worst kind of politics with people’s lives, from the comfort of his golf course.
As people die, @realDonaldTrump attacks Mayor of San Juan Just when we think he can stoop no lower No decency. No morals. No job come 2020
The goal is one: saving lives. This is the time to show our "true colors". We cannot be distracted by anything else.
Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising. We’ve seen Donald Trump prove time and time again that he is both weak of character and devoid of virtuous reason — especially when it comes to people of color. His response to the plight in Puerto Rico is yet another notch in the ever-growing bedpost of his immorality — one more moment where he has cemented himself on the wrong side of history.
In previous tweets, Trump has appeared critical of the island’s financial state. His slowness to waive the Jones Act, a 1920 law that requires goods shipped between U.S. ports to be transported by U.S. vessels operated primarily by Americans, also created concern that he was not taking the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico seriously enough.
To add insult to injury, Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of Homeland Security recently called the disaster a “good news story” regarding the recovery efforts, despite many accounts of aide not being effectively delivered.
These events have also exposed which federal officials are choosing to stay silent while their fellow citizens suffer. It’s been revealed over the past week that nearly half of Americans don’t even know that Puerto Ricans are citizens — and some that do don’t consider them worthy of the same federal help the people of Texas and Florida were granted in the recent string of disastrous hurricanes.
“By now, it’s sort of comical, but it makes me feel second-class, like you don’t belong.”— 65-year-old Puerto Rican born Xavier Totti
The fact that the argument of citizenship needs to be made in order to galvanize the general population’s support of people is concerning in its own right. A nation built on Christian values, we seem to have very important qualifications for what neighbors we are willing to love and help.
Puerto Rico has never been treated right by the United States — it’s time we did something about that.
A History of Colonialization
Puerto Rico came into American occupation as a result of the Spanish-American war. It had found itself under Spanish rule in the late 15th century when Christopher Columbus landed on its shores. Because of its proximity to the United States, trade quickly developed between the two countries, leading Americans to realize the island’s political value and compete with Spain in trade importance.
On September 23, 1868, a group of Puerto Ricans lead an uprising against Spanish rule called the “Grito de Lares” (Cry of Lares). This call for independence was quickly quelled by Spanish soldiers but helped pave the way in the push for autonomy.
In 1897, the Spanish government granted the island its own governing power through the Charter of Autonomy. This didn’t last long, as less than a year later American forces landed in Puerto Rico and acquired control through the Treaty of Paris.
With barely a year of self-governance under its belt, the island was once again regulated to colony status. Military rule was enacted, and many attempts were made to “Americanize” the island — including a push for making English the national language.
On March 2, 1917, about a month before the start of World War I, Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship through the Jones-Shafroth Act. This act gave them “statutory citizenship,” meaning that citizenship was given by an act of Congress rather than guaranteed through the Constitution.
Two months later, President Woodrow Wilson signed a compulsory military service act, which would result in around 20,000 Puerto Ricans being drafted to fight in a war for a country where they were offered no governmental representation.
In 1953, the island was finally granted commonwealth status, which is what it holds today. This linked Puerto Rico to the United States through a federalized currency, citizenship process, common defense, and common market. Puerto Ricans pay most US taxes but don’t have any representation in the federal government.
The island does, however, exist as a tax haven for certain corporations. Unique tax loopholes allow corporations and millionaires to pay little to no taxes if they operate out of the island. The Commonwealth, which is the fifth largest market for American goods, is struggling with a decades-long debt crisis, with little recourse to improve its economic station.
The Politicization Of Human Lives
This question of Puerto Rican statehood is both complicated and filled with complex difficulties of reckoning a long history of colonialization. While 97% of voters said they favored statehood in the most recent referendum, the low voting turnout has been used to craft narratives that paint Puerto Ricans as only wanting government help when it suits them (remind you of a certain tweet?)
It’s worth noting at this point that the turnout when Hawaii voted on statehood was only a handful of percentage points higher. New Mexico’s arduous journey towards becoming a state also serves to underscore the oft-forgotten complexities in these types of matters.
Additionally, the Supreme Court that created the concept of an unincorporated territory — effectively denying Puerto Rico statehood after the Spanish-American war — through the Insular Cases was the same that issued the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, upholding state laws allowing for racial segregation.
Regardless, the use of this argument to suggest the citizens of America which live on an island “surrounded by water, big water, ocean water,” are undeserving of help or are too lazy to help themselves is unAmerican to the core.
The politicization of this tragedy, which has led an American mayor to plead for her citizen’s lives should embarrass us all. The President’s statements and lack of timely action prove that he and those that still support him consider some American lives more valuable than others.
Whether he values some lives over others because of the political views of Puerto Ricans or the color of their skin (though it’s getting hard to argue anything other than both), every true patriot should be outraged that Donald Trump is playing politics with people’s lives. This isn’t the first time Puerto Ricans have been mistreated by the United States.
Hopefully, the President will continue his trend in galvanizing the nation against his hateful rhetoric, and American citizens will continue to send help and aid to those in need in Puerto Rico.
Because — as we’ve seen time and time again — it’s the regular citizens resisting the amoral Trump administration that are truly making America great again.