Trump treats Texas hurricane victims better than those from Puerto Rico

A new review illustrates how much more compassion Trump had for Texan hurricane victims than for Puerto Rican ones

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 27, 2018 3:44PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
(AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Documents now prove what many have long suspected: President Donald Trump cares more about hurricane victims in Texas than those in Puerto Rico.

Thanks to a review of public documents by Politico, it has been revealed that Trump spent more public resources on Texans victimized by Hurricane Harvey than he had for Puerto Ricans victimized by Hurricane Maria. He also moved more quickly to respond to the situation in Texas than in Puerto Rico. From the Politico report:

Within six days of Hurricane Harvey, U.S. Northern Command had deployed 73 helicopters over Houston, which are critical for saving victims and delivering emergency supplies. It took at least three weeks after Maria before it had more than 70 helicopters flying above Puerto Rico.

Nine days after the respective hurricanes, FEMA had approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims, versus just $6.2 million for Maria victims.

During the first nine days after Harvey, FEMA provided 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and over 20,000 tarps to Houston; but in the same period, it delivered just 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water and roughly 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico.

Nine days after Harvey, the federal government had 30,000 personnel in the Houston region, compared with 10,000 at the same point after Maria.

It took just 10 days for FEMA to approve permanent disaster work for Texas, compared with 43 days for Puerto Rico.

Seventy-eight days after each hurricane, FEMA had approved 39 percent of federal applications for relief from victims of Harvey, versus 28 percent for Maria.

Politico also pointed to Trump's public comments on the two situations:

He visited Houston twice during the first eight days after the hurricane, but didn’t visit Puerto Rico for 13 days. In the first week after the disasters, Trump sent three times as many tweets about Harvey as Maria — 24 about the plight of Texas and eight about Puerto Rico, including a series of comments about Puerto Rico’s debt level and quality of infrastructure that local officials considered insulting and enraging while lives were still in jeopardy.

Trump's response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico has been harshly criticized almost from the moment that Hurricane Maria first struck the American commonwealth. After temporarily waiving the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 — a law which makes it so that only American ships which are built, manned and owned by American citizens can carry goods and people between American ports — Trump allowed it to go into effect again, thereby slowing down the relief and recovery process in Puerto Rico.

Trump also drew derision for his seeming impatience with the pace of relief in Puerto Rico, even victim-blaming residents of the island by posting tweets with statements like, "We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!" The Federal Emergency Management Agency even told Puerto Rico in January that it might not receive federal community disaster loans that it had been expecting because they thought the island already had enough money to handle the crisis.

Why does Trump seem to hold Puerto Rico in lower regard than Texas?

"Puerto Ricans feel American, but also feel Puerto Rican. They have a lot of loyalty to their culture, their island, their language," Professor José Moya of Barnard College told Salon in October. "That is seen as, 'Therefore, they're not fully Americans.'"

At this point it is necessary to comment on the obvious: The reason Trump has dedicated more resources to helping Texans than Puerto Ricans is the same reason why he has pushed for an immigration ban from predominantly Muslim countries, and why he has made stopping undocumented immigration from Mexico one of the keystone issues of his presidency, and why he spent so many years claiming that the first African American president hadn't been born in the United States.

If you're still not getting it, late night comedian John Oliver can break it down for you bluntly, as he did back in October.

"The primary obstacle to hurricane relief has been Puerto Rican laziness? You have got to hand it to Trump: anybody can say horribly racist things about Hispanic people on a golden escalator, but it takes real balls to do it while their fellow citizens are dying. Trump is basically saying: ‘When hurricanes are hitting our people, they’re not hitting our best, they’re killing poors, they’re killing lazies and some, I assume, have said nice things about me,'" Oliver told his audience.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Fema Hurricane Harvey Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico Texas