Red cross boat
U.S. Department of Defense

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. That makes Puerto Ricans American citizens, too. But it is not surprising that Trump has shown very little empathy for Puerto Ricans after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma bypassed the island and Maria hit, cutting out power and clean water for residents there.

Even while American citizens are going through the horrific devastation of Maria, Trump has made some disparaging statements about Puerto Rico not paying their debts. Now, I challenge Trump and his administration to either shut up or put up a needed ratified bill to bring down the Jones Act, which has been choking Puerto Rico’s economy for years but is now also delaying crucial relief supplies from reaching the battered island in a timely fashion.

The act was passed in 1920 and requires that everything shipped between U.S. ports be transported on ships registered under the U.S. flag, built in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens and crewed by permanent residents of the United States. Removing this outdated legislation would help our fellow Americans pay off their debts and bring down prices on the island. For now, Trump waited eight days to waive the Jones Act restrictions so that Puerto Rico could receive any and all assistance available to transport relief supplies to the island.

The Republicans already botched up New Orleans in their efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Mardi Gras hasn’t been enough to bring one citizen back from other states to rebuild in the city. People are not staying away because of the catastrophic or horrifying experience of the hurricane – they are staying away because of the lack of care shown to them as people during relief and cleanup efforts after the fact.

Remember when Kanye West said that President George W. Bush “hated black people?” Now, we have Trump accusing Puerto Rico of not paying its bills. This is what USA does when people miss one or two payments on credit; they get slapped with a higher interest rate to keep you in poverty, despair, hopelessness and eventual homelessness.

Why do we have politicians when they don’t listen to us, the people, and instead listen to the rich, giving them tax cuts and bailouts whenever they need them? What about us that want to get ahead, too?

Aida Basnight is a vendor/artist with Street Sense.