[Video] Members of Congress discuss reactions of the Puerto Rican community after Hurricane Maria
Several members of the Democratic Party of the federal House of Representatives held a press conference in front of the United States Capitol yesterday to discuss what they are hearing from the Puerto Rican communities they represent.
Many have received appeals for help from constituents who want their sick, elderly, and vulnerable loved ones to leave the island and come to the United States.
During a press conference, the representatives discussed the urgency with which help is needed in Puerto Rico, but also the need to evacuate people and help them settle in the United States, if they wish.
Overall, eight members of Congress from five states spoke at the press conference and Rep. Darren Soto of Florida, who is one of the four democrats of Puerto Rican descent, said: “The stories you are reading and seeing from Puerto Rico are all true. The devastation and damage is real and people need our help,” said the congressman.
“Our American compatriots face unthinkable tragedies. I saw people all over the island waiting in long lines for groceries and gas, most of the areas lacked electricity, cell phone service and working traffic lights. The rubble still covered many roads. Most of the buildings suffered minor or major damages. In the immediate term, it is essential that we send air assets and air transport with additional supplies to rural areas. I urge my colleagues in Congress to come together and approve an additional FEMA package for Puerto Rico,” he said.
Likewise, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez said that “if people want to stay, they should stay, but if people want to leave Puerto Rico to the United States, we must find a way to help them do it.”
“FEMA and the Governor of Puerto Rico are in charge, but our constituents are calling us to say ‘help us’ and we would not be doing our job if we did not raise our voices and broaden the concerns of our constituents. How long can hospitals be without electricity, or the elderly without their medicines, or children without schools? It’s been weeks and I know that in Chicago we’re ready to receive families,” he said.
For her part, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez stressed that “what is happening in Puerto Rico is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis.”
“We have a moral responsibility to help, and, especially, to ensure that the most vulnerable citizens of the island are safe. To that end, I will continue to advocate for a solid recovery package that, beyond rebuilding the island’s infrastructure, will help address the Medicaid deficit and Puerto Rico’s health care system,” he added.
Likewise, Representative José E. Serrano said that “Hundreds of thousands of people, including the elderly and people with chronic diseases, do not have access to appropriate medical care after Hurricane Maria.”
“Hospitals have electricity and / or limited water, doctors are not readily available and the waiting lines at health centers that provide some kind of care are too long. Those who can afford it are resorting to leaving the island to find the right care in the United States. But those who cannot afford access to safe water and food are the ones who suffer the most. I urge my colleagues to join us in helping to address this issue at the federal level by ensuring that the Puerto Rican government has the funds and tools they need to adequately address this crisis,” said the congressman.
Meanwhile, Democratic Caucus chairman Joe Crowley asserted, “Puerto Rico is in crisis. The federal government must immediately do more to help the island rebuild and ensure that people living there have access to water, supplies and health care they so desperately need,” he said.