West Lafayette, Indiana, has been working since September on a resolution to welcome newcomers from Puerto Rico. Resolution No. 14-18, “A Resolution Welcoming Citizens Relocating From Puerto Rico,” was sponsored by Councilman David Sanders.
What’s slowing down the resolution? Welcoming people relocating to West Lafayette is not controversial. Some question whether West Lafayette’s choice to welcome people relocating from Puerto Rico might require welcoming messages for people coming from other places, too, but that’s not the biggest controversy.
There is a line in the resolution that some council members feel could be considered hostile:
More than 100,000 Puerto Rican citizens have relocated to the United States due, in part, to the inadequate United States government response.
The resolution, which begins by pointing out that citizens of Puerto Rico are also citizens of the United States, goes on to summarize the devastation of Hurricane Maria and rounds out the welcome message with this call to action:
FURTHERMORE, the Common Council of the City of West Lafayette, Indiana calls upon the employees of the City of West Lafayette, Indiana to render every possible assistance to citizens relocating from Puerto Rico consistent with their assigned duties as employees of the City of West Lafayette.
The Resolution passed. But there is still plenty of controversy about the federal response to Hurricane Maria. PBS reported that funds, people, and supplies were all much lower for Maria’s victims in Puerto Rico than for Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida. Politico reports that the response in Puerto Rico was not only smaller than that in Texas, but also slower.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that members of the general public blamed the slow response on the federal government more than on the territory’s local government, but there was enough blame to go around. They also found that people’s views on this issue differed depending on their political affiliation.
A similar survey in Puerto Rico a year after the hurricane found that people living in Puerto Rico blamed all levels of government for problems with the disaster response.
Clearly, this issue goes beyond the simple facts. The simple facts do, however, tell us that disaster assistance for territories is different from disaster assistance for states.