President Trump’s first State of the Union address included a mention of Puerto Rico. “We have endured floods and fires and storms,” Trump said. “But through it all, we have seen the beauty of America’s soul and the steel in America’s spine. Each test forged new American heroes to remind us who we are, and show us what we can be.”
The president might have been remembering the people of Puerto Rico providing help for the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma dealt Puerto Rico a glancing blow. He went on to say, “To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, everywhere, we are with you, we love you, and we always will pull through together, always.”
Politico’s fact check for the State of the Union address mentioned, at this point, that recovery in Puerto Rico has followed a different path from recovery in Texas, Florida, and Louisiana.
“At least a third of Puerto Rico still lacks electricity, months after the hurricane. And FEMA is planning to end food and water aid as it transitions to a new phase of recovery,” Politico fact checkers pointed out. “He hasn’t always been so conciliatory toward storm victims, especially those in Puerto Rico. He attacked the mayor of San Juan, and said victims in Puerto Rico ‘want everything to be done for them.’”
Puerto Rico is often ignored in State of the Union addresses. In 2013, just weeks after the voters of Puerto Rico chose statehood for the first time and the White House called that vote a “clear” message, President Obama didn’t mention Puerto Rico at all.
But Vox said that President Trump “glossed over” one of the most important events of the past year, “the destruction of Puerto Rico.”
Several legislators invited representatives from Puerto Rico, including Florida lawmakers Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Darren Soto (D-FL). NBC News suggested that this was intended to put a focus on Puerto Rico in the State of the Union address. If so, the plan was not successful.
A number of legislators and commentators have criticized President Trump for overlooking Puerto Rico and failing to ask Congress for action to help the recovery of the Island. Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, Puerto Rico’s only representative in Congress, took a more positive view. “The rebuilding of infrastructure and the investment in job creation can start in Puerto Rico,” she tweeted after the speech. “We can be the place to launch programs to build back better infrastructure and to favor enterprise.”