A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a natural disaster which has devastated the island and left many of its 3.4 million inhabitants without water, food, gas, electricity, access to medication, or other basic needs. Officials have described “apocalyptic” conditions, which are only expected to get worse, and Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rosselló has deemed Maria the biggest catastrophe in the island’s history.
So why aren’t we seeing a larger public and political response to this disaster?
Okay, I get that the Trump-NFL fight gets tons of coverage, but why Puerto Rico is not THE massive focus of the media now is beyond me.
— Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) September 25, 2017
It may be, in part, because nearly half of all Americans don’t actually know that Puerto Ricans are their fellow citizens. A new Morning Consult poll of 2,200 American adults revealed that 46% were unaware that people born in Puerto Rico, a US commonwealth, are citizens.
Alarmingly, the youngest group of adults polled were the most uninformed. Just 37% of people ages 18-29 knew that island-born boris are U.S. citizens.
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) September 26, 2017
These findings don’t just point to the sad state of affairs of the U.S. education system. They can also have a tangible effect on public and political support for aid to the island. Morning Consult found that those who were informed about the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans were much more likely to express support for additional aid to the island.
Each state highlighted in this map has fewer US citizens than Puerto Rico. Imagine one of them facing such devastation. Would you care more? pic.twitter.com/2YIRRfUPeS
— Tom Bonier (@tbonier) September 25, 2017
Just got off phone w/ Puerto Rico gov @ricardorossello. "You can't treat US citizens differently because they live in a colonial territory."
— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) September 26, 2017
Certainly, the plight of Puerto Ricans merits coverage and action regardless of their citizenship status – they are fellow human beings first and foremost. But they have all the same rights as U.S. citizens on the mainland and should be treated as such.