New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sues the Trump Administration over the handling of Hurricane Maria
by Regina Sandoval
Staff Legal Analyst
Hurricane Maria, which wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico and the island of Dominica in September 2017, is the deadliest hurricane that the Atlantic coast has seen in over ten years. Fatalities are estimated to be 3,000, but exact numbers are unknown because not enough attention and resources were put into helping the people of Puerto Rico. New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is suing Trump for having a bias against Puerto Rico and not providing them with the same treatment as he would for Florida or Texas. “We’re going to hold ‘King’ Trump to the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution said equal protection under the law.” Cuomo said.
He announced that the state of New York would be working with the affected families of Puerto Rico to file a lawsuit against President Trump. New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul states she is proud of the state’s efforts in providing physical assistance and resources, but that suing Trump is “the next step in holding Trump and the federal government accountable” for their lack of regard and willingness to help a state of their own.
Hurricane Maria’s death toll might have not been so high if supplies had reached the island in a timely manner. It took three weeks for the federal government to fly helicopters above the island and deliver aid. It took the government six days to send 73 U.S. Northern Command helicopters to Texas after Hurricane Harvey. This disparity is why Cuomo believes Trump is breaking the law and not delivering equal means for recovery when different states are affected by tropical storms. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) allocated only $6.2 million for victims of Hurricane Maria, and provided a whopping $141.8 million to victims of Hurricane Harvey. It is worth noting that Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 Hurricane that killed 82 people, and Hurricane Maria is a Category 5 Hurricane that killed 3,000 or more. This disparity is especially significant when analyzing that the federal government sent Texas 3 times as many personnel than it sent Puerto Rico.
In a report, Cuomo included New York’s own efforts to help Puerto Rico, including 41,000 logged hours of work done by CUNY and SUNY students. They physically restored the island and cleaned debris. Cuomo is also investing $11 million to provide adequate housing and healthcare for Puerto Ricans. Governor Cuomo personally visited the island 5 times to coordinate an agricultural partnership with Puerto Rico and New York. New York’s Congressional Delegation has proposed a $94.4 billion report called Build Back Better that calls for public safety, first response, housing, agriculture, and power.
This is hardly the first time Governor Cuomo has openly disagreed with President Trump or backed the decision to hold him accountable in court. In June, the state of New York sued Trump over his “Zero-Tolerance” policy, because by law, one cannot place a child seeking asylum into a detention center. The Flores settlement requires that children be placed with a relative or family friend “without unnecessary delay” instead of placing them in custody. The children who are already in custody are supposed to be held with “the least restrictive” conditions.” Trump’s executive order, however, led border patrol agents and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to detain refugees, separate children from their parents, and place them in large cages for months.
Governor Cuomo does not take these legal matters lightly, and will fearlessly face the President in court. By suing Trump, Cuomo is forcing the public to recognize President Trump’s lack of concern for these families, and for the unity of the United States.