As people of faith, members of the United Church of Christ are committed to loving creation, our neighbors and children. The unjust policies and executive orders we have seen recently are the antithesis of this. We are witnessing injustices in many forms.
Florida, Puerto Rico, and Texas endure the aftermath of hurricanes, while Californians are battling wildfires. Even if climate change didn't start the floods and fires, the L.A. Times found that it encourages them. As the Earth gets hotter, water evaporates, stripping the moisture plant life needs and paving the way for a wildfire. Another result? The atmosphere holds more moisture. Rainfall--during hurricanes, for example--becomes more abundant.
Unjust policies and decisions on the heels of these events only drown us in more sorrow. These natural disasters usually affect communites of color and our low-income neighbors disproportionately. The suffering in Puerto Rico shines the brightest light on how certain people are treated as opposed to others.
Our government's differing response to Puerto Rico has been questioned. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff and volunteers are working diligently. However, the people of Puerto Rico have also been chided for burdening the U.S. budget in the process. (Interestingly, Florida and Texas weren't castigated for "allowing" a natural disaster to wreak havoc.)
The current administration has also let the Jones Act waiver to expire. The waiver would allow resources to flow into the island's ports from all over the world. There are no renewal plans. Now, Puerto Rico faces paying double shipping fees again.
Department of Homeland Security David Lapan claims renewing the waiver isn't necessary. "We believe that extending the waiver is unnecessary to support the humanitarian relief efforts on the island," Lapan said. "There is an ample supply of Jones Act-qualified vessels to ensure that cargo is able to reach Puerto Rico."
Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello disagrees. Rossello wants the Jones Act waiver extended. "I think we should have it," Rossello told CBS News. "In this emergency phase, while we're looking to sustain and save lives, we should have all of the assets at hand."
Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, is calling for legislation that exempts Puerto Rico. That legislation would be a just and deeply needed policy step to counteract systemic racism, which Puerto Rico faces at the hands of its own government. It's right and just to express love for our creation, neighbor and children through our own person al responses, as well as our nation's policies.
Want to do more to help Puerto Rico? Contact Congress now and donate to our UCC Disaster recovery efforts.
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Jason Carson Willson is Justice and Peace Policy Fellow of the United Church of Christ.