'Donald Trump has been accused of using Puerto Rico as a “political football” as he considers taking billions of dollars earmarked for disaster response in the territory and use it to build his border wall without congressional approval.
Pressure is mounting on the president to find a way to end a 21-day partial federal shutdown that is now the joint-longest in US history. Mr Trump’s request for $5.7bn in funds for his US-Mexico wall the major sticking point to passing spending bills to re-open the government.
Puerto Rican Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez said it is “unacceptable” to even consider declaring a national emergency on the border to free up the relief funds, adding the president is “playing with our pain and hope.”
On Thursday, a congressional aide told reporters that the White House has asked the US Army Corps of Engineers to look into the possibility of using funds from the $13.9 billion received in a February 2018 disaster relief bill for border wall construction. The $13.9 billion is earmarked for disaster relief efforts for Puerto Rico, California, Florida, Texas and other states hit hard by natural disasters.
Ms Gonzalez, a resident commissioner for the US territory and a non-voting member in the House, said that Puerto Rico still has not received a promised $2.5 billion even though more than a year has passed since the Category 4 storm Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
“To use this now as a political football is not what US citizens in Puerto Rico deserve,” she said on Friday.
The $2.5 billion fund would help fund projects like channelling rivers to prevent flooding, which has been a widespread concern for Puerto Ricans, especially during what is a six-month hurricane season.'
Read more: Trump accused of using Puerto Rico as 'political football' as he considers taking billions from disaster response for the wall
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