I say Donald Trump has committed hate crimes in his response to the destruction of Hurricane Maria last fall in Puerto Rico. The definition of a hate crime is “a traditional offense like murder, arson or vandalism with an added element of bias.”
One of the primary responsibilities of the office of the president of the United States is to ensure our laws are enforced. One of our laws is the Stafford Act, which governs federal response to major disasters and says the government must provide help to Puerto Rico like it would to any state. It doesn’t say that help should be based on the state/territory’s financial health. If it did, that would mean the government should give less help to Illinois after a disaster because the state is nearly bankrupt. Donald Trump’s response to this disaster was “they are on an island in the middle of the water” and “they had infrastructure problems before the hurricane.” Well, the emperor has no clothes anymore.
The land mass area of Puerto Rico would fit into western New York. Anyone who drives frequently from just east of Rochester to Buffalo or from Perry to the shore of Lake Ontario knows that is not a big land mass. Why is it that our great Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, resources and taxpayer-funded U.S. Treasury did not provide the desperately needed generators and fuel to preserve continuation of care in Puerto Rico’s hospitals, to keep life-saving machines running, refrigeration of medicines and critical sterilization processes from failing? Why did so many hurricane survivors have to resort to drinking unfiltered, bacteria-laden water, leading to legionnaires’ disease when air drops to remote sections of the island were delayed or nonexistent?
In neglecting to ensure life-saving measures were taken in a timely fashion, Donald Trump committed hate crimes against citizens of the United States. Those citizens lived in a U.S. territory and many of their relatives lived on the mainland USA. They continue to suffer from displacement, grief and uncertainty. Research-based evidence has now shown that almost as many Americans perished in Puerto Rico during and post-Hurricane Maria as did on 9/11.
These crimes are an offence to our reputation in the world as the richest and most powerful nation on Earth. This is how we treat our own citizens? Puerto Rican citizens pay federal taxes in the form of Social Security taxes, business taxes, gift taxes and estate taxes, and continue to do so even in the wake of disaster.
The Declaration of Independence guarantees “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It has become apparent that many hundreds of people were denied their very lives in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria due to a lack of power, food, medicine and water.
As the blessed benefactors of all our ancestors fought to preserve, we must remember the tragedy in Puerto Rico at the voting booth on Tuesday, Nov. 6 and tell our president that even if he doesn’t care about our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, we do.
Toni Hardy is a resident of Gates.