Trump refuses to lift shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico aid

Puerto Rico has seen unprecedented damage since it was struck by Hurricanes Irma and Maria just weeks apart, leaving residents there with no power and little to no gas, food, or access to healthcare for the near future.

But the Trump administration denied a request that would have jumpstarted the process of bringing aid to the U.S. territory.

The Department of Homeland Security reportedly denied a request from Congress to waive the Jones Act, a law which allows shipping between coasts only to “U.S.-flagged vessels”, meaning that international ships are unable to bring much-needed supplies to Puerto Rico.

The troubling thing: Trump allowed the Jones Act to be waived after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, allowing aid from foreign ships for Texas and Florida. The reason offered by DHS for denying the same aid to Puerto Rico?

Hurricane damage.

“The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said to Reuters.

The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, said that “people are dying” under the conditions there, as hospital generators powering life support and other essential functions are running out of fuel. The conditions have been described as “apocalyptic” as officials plead for relief.

“We need something tangible, a bill that actually answers to our need right now,” Governor Ricardo Rosselló said this week. “Otherwise, there will be … a massive exodus to the (mainland) United States.”

Meanwhile, the pleas for help appear to be falling on near-deaf ears, as President Donald Trump was more concerned with protests by NFL players before finally issuing several tweets about monetary damage and promising to visit the island next week (and — naturally — praising his administration).

“Everybody has said it’s amazing the job we’ve done in Puerto Rico. We’re very proud of it and I’m going there on Tuesday,” Trump said this week.

Trump even appeared to lay some backhanded blame on Puerto Rican infrastructure and economy on Twitter, while claiming — contrary to local officials’ statements — that FEMA response regarding water and medical supplies were “doing well.”