It is estimated that more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans may have relocated to the state of Florida after the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the island. Now, their electoral participation may be key to determining the upcoming election between President Donald Trump and and former Vice President Joe Biden.
It is the clear, however, that when it comes to Puerto Rico, there is only one clear choice.
That choice is Vice President Biden.
There are plenty of reasons why Biden’s record on Puerto Rico is superior to that of President Trump’s.
In 2009, Biden lead the effort for the approval and implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The recovery act directly assisted Puerto Ricans most affected by the economic crisis. More than 210,000 Puerto Ricans received greater unemployment benefits due to ARRA, and more than 700,000 seniors and almost 500 veterans received over $176 million in payments of economic assistance, in addition to providing Puerto Rican small businesses almost 450 loans from the United States Small Business Administration. As for Trump, he has caused more damage to the economy in general, but against Puerto Ricans specifically—by threatening to veto legislation which assigned emergency funds to the island and approving a tax code which affects the island’s economy even more.
On the issue of health care —which is relevant to our entire community during this time of the pandemic— Biden spearheaded and work tirelessly with President Barack Obama for the approval of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which gave around 4.1 million Latinos access to health insurance. For Puerto Rico, the measure resulted in $925 million of additional Medicaid funds, which resulted in 74,000 medically indigent people joining local “My Health” programs and 76,000 existing subscribers seeing their deductibles reduced. Within his current plan, Biden has proposed protecting the ACA and building on it to provide everybody the opportunity to have affordable and accessible health insurance.
From day one, Trump has attempted to gut the ACA, putting these appropriations for the island at risk. In addition, the lack of a comprehensive federal response to COVID-19 has been disastrous to Puerto Ricans both on the island and stateside. Biden has the experience and a comprehensive plan to fight COVID-19 from a scientific perspective.
When it comes to veterans, Biden knows firsthand the needs of that population, as his own late son Beau was a war veteran. After many years of fighting for Congress to honor the memory of Puerto Rico’s 65th Military Regiment on the island, the group was given the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Obama-Biden administration. President Trump, however, allows for the unequal treatment of veterans in Puerto Rico by not providing Tri-Care medical coverage in comparison with veterans on the mainland. Additionally, Trump has proposed budget cuts to Puerto Ricans that would directly affect their quality of life and health. As President, Biden will work to provide equal treatment for all veterans, regardless of the zip code in which they reside.
The island’s political status debate is also an important one. As Vice President and a key member of President Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, Biden took the status issue seriously, following up on the work of previous Presidents to focus further attention with a task force on Puerto Rico. In 2011, a working group published what many consider to be the most complete and comprehensive report on Puerto Rico’s political status and the economy in the history of any presidential administration. In 2012, the Obama-Biden administration also recognized the majority will in favor of a change in status which gave way to a historic move—the assignment of $2.5 million for a plebiscite vote with options approved by the Department of Justice to finally put an end to the island’s political status dilemma. During this campaign cycle, Biden has reconfirmed his commitment to the status question, saying the following: “I will engage Puerto Ricans —including representatives of every status option —in a process of self-determination, listening and developing federal legislation that outlines a fair path forward. Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans throughout our nation make the United States strong.”
Under Trump, Puerto Ricans have experimented total inaction on behalf of U.S. Congress and the White House regarding the topic of political status. The Puerto Rico Task Force created by President Clinton was totally inactive on this topic and even worse, President Trump and his White House administration have rejected and mocked the will of the majority of Puerto Ricans by stating that the only way to concede a change of status towards statehood is if the governor of Puerto Rico can guarantee him two Republican senators. Such mockery of Puerto Ricans continues with other Republican voices, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who falsely claimed that statehood for the island would lead to “full-bore socialism.”
Republicans continue to insult Puerto Ricans, while Biden will always respect us. It is why we should not forget that on May 24, 2009, just months into a new Obama-Biden administration, Biden was instrumental and played a crucial role in the designation and eventual unprecedented confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, to the great pride of the entire Puerto Rican community.
Trump, on the other hand, has continued to show contempt towards our community. That feeling goes beyond throwing paper towels at us. Since Hurricane Maria, Trump self-proclaimed himself as receiving a 10 for his lack of any real federal response, which played a role in the deaths of over 3,000 people and hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans leaving the island. Trump has also been an obstacle to recuperation by blocking aid and adding excessive bureaucracy. His White House described the nutritional aid to Puerto Ricans during the middle of the humanitarian crisis as an excessive and unnecessary waste of money. He also has considered selling off Puerto Rico.
On November 3, Puerto Ricans with the right to vote on the mainland will have an important decision to take to define their future and that of the island: either they pick a incumbent president who has shown no interest at all in us or a proven candidate like Biden who has the record, leadership, empathy and a true plan to move our agenda forward.
I call on all of our people to register and go out to vote for the only ally and candidate who has a concrete agenda for Puerto Rico.
That candidate is Joe Biden.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The views presented are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) or its components. Appearance of DoD visual information or external hyperlinks does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
Attorney Anthony Carrillo Filomeno is the Co-Founder and former Chairman of the Young Democrats of America Hispanic Caucus, a former Clinton 2016 Millennial Council Youth Vote Advisor and a Puerto Rico Presidential Delegate for Joe Biden.