Puerto Rican politicians holding office on the mainland United States, especially those in New York, have long felt compelled to look after the territory, given its limited federal representation and chronic financial distress. But the catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which has thrust Puerto Rico to the edge of a humanitarian crisis, has ignited a dire sense of urgency.
The elected officials were driven at first by seeing the pain inflicted by the storm, with lives upended, homes destroyed and food, water and electricity difficult to come by. For some, though, that anguish has morphed into fury, as they have grown incensed by a federal response that they say is woefully lacking and by President Trump’s handling of the situation, which has struck them as dismissive of Puerto Rico’s plight.
“There is this view that, somehow, we don’t merit that level of concern or attention or respect from this government,” said Melissa Mark-Viverito, the speaker of the New York City Council, comparing the response in Puerto Rico with areas struck by recent hurricanes in Florida and Texas. “Somehow, we’re a burden and we’re mooching. That’s the kind of language this president is throwing around.”
A largely left-leaning cast of Puerto Rican politicians in New York, members of the diaspora or descendants of it, has emerged as a force pushing for aid and attention. They have used the bully pulpits of their offices, booking cable news appearances and writing letters to federal agencies. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez held a news conference in which she warned Mr. Trump that unless he stepped up his efforts for storm victims, “this will become his Katrina.”