While the White House has consistently pushed back on the idea that the president has treated Puerto Rico insufficiently, the most recent decisions coming from the Trump administration have furthered criticism about his response to the natural disaster.
The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey reported:
The federal government provided additional food-stamp aid to Puerto Rico after the hurricane, but Congress missed the deadline for reauthorization in March as it focused on other issues before leaving for a week-long recess. Federal lawmakers have also been stalled by the Trump administration, which has derided the extra aid as unnecessary.Now, about 43 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents are grappling with a sudden cut to a benefit they rely on for groceries and other essentials.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) blamed Trump for this ongoing crisis harming thousands. Sanders tweeted:
“An estimated 3,000 Puerto Ricans died as a result of Hurricane Maria. Since then, our fellow Americans on the island have dealt with neglect and mismanagement by the Trump administration, and now they are facing major cuts to nutrition assistance. We must act to end this crisis.”
The move has been viewed as harsh and unpresidential by many of his critics.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted:
“As far as I can tell, Trump is punishing the island of Puerto Rico because he's mad at them for dying in such large numbers during Maria that it made him look bad?”
Republican strategist Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, whose family immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua, frequently criticizes Trump’s treatment of people of color. She tweeted:
“Again and again, we have seen Trump treat Puerto Ricans like second-class citizens. Hmmmm . . . I wonder why?”
Trump’s response is supposedly rooted in his view of Puerto Rico as being irredeemable. According to The Post’s reporting, Trump sees the island as “fundamentally broken” and weighed down with unfixable systemic problems:
“He describes in meetings that large swaths of the island never had power to begin with and that it is ‘ridiculous’ how much money is going to Puerto Rico in food-stamp aid, according to the senior official. He has occasionally groused about how ungrateful political officials in Puerto Rico were for the administration’s help, the official said.”
What the president prioritizes is subjective. Which problems he attempts to solve give the American public a message about which places and individuals are worth saving. The idea that he may not see Puerto Rico as a community of people worth rescuing from a crisis does little to change the perception that Trump’s desire to make America great does not include all Americans.