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Sept. 21, 2017 — A refugee crisis with a significant twist

Over the last month, enormous hurricanes have criss-crossed the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, leaving death and destruction in their collective wake.

When it comes to the Caribbean islands alone, it’s estimated that the devastation could affect 12 million people. That’s about the size of the dislocation of the Syrian refugee crisis the last couple of years.

Except it’s happening right at our doorstep.

And with donor organizations stretched to their limits, and with understandable donor fatigue settling in, the American response to this crisis needs to be something more than just filling sandbags, more than just a photo opportunity.

This is the kind of relief that should rival The Marshall Plan in terms of resources and people. National Guard, Coast Guard, you name it. It is going to demand a significant response not only from the government and industry, but people.

This is going to require an increase in blood donations, permanent repairs and hardening of electrical infrastructure, and, frankly, the sense that Americans’ capacity to give is not out of a sense of weakness, but of strength.

And I think it will also take a realization that people fleeing from the storm aren’t just islanders, but a significant number — namely Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders — are American citizens, with all of the rights and privileges thereto, save for being able to have voting representation in Congress.

Last night, I set up a Facebook chat between members of my family, who are in communication with cousins who are in Puerto Rico during the storm. My aunt, is, thankfully, inland and on high ground. My cousins are scattered all over the place, but we did get some good reports about their condition and whereabouts.

And then, the conversation turned to what our family could do in the aftermath of the storm. Offers of lodging were made; if necessary, our cousins could come to one of several of my family members here on the Continental U.S. and stay until they can get back on their feet.

I was proud to read the tone of the conversation.

Because this kind of generosity is who we are as Puerto Ricans; nay, as Americans.

And I hope politicians in Washington realize the same.

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