The United States seized the island of Puerto Rico from Spain during the Spanish-American War. By 1917, the people of Puerto Rico had become American citizens with an elected bicameral legislature. Puerto Ricans have elected their own governor since 1948, and their Commonwealth Constitution resembles the basic law of any American state.

It took over a week before our unsympathetic, xenophobic president, golfing at his Bedminster golf club, responded to the island's dire devastation from Hurricane Maria. The recovery response from the federal government has been unimpressive as 3.4 million Puerto Rican American citizens live in the commonwealth and are entitled to the same government response as any state.

Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s electrical power grid. Can you imagine living without electricity, telephones, banking services, automobile fuel, food, drinking water, toilets that flush, schools, newspapers, television, air-conditioning while living in the tropics? Estimates suggest that power may not be fully restored for many months.

As a result of the devastation, a vast internal migration of American citizens is likely to happen in the months ahead. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, possibly 1 million or more, will move to the American mainland. If this migration occurs, it will be a disaster inflicted on the commonwealth, which cannot afford to lose many of its best and brightest people.

Should basic services fail to return soon, social and economic disorder will prompt willing and able Puerto Ricans to seek temporary, or permanent, shelter among friends and relatives already living on the mainland. They are likely to choose warm-weather localities that are familiar, hospitable and welcoming, such as Florida.

These American citizens are largely politically liberal Hispanics-Latinos, and will likely change the voting demographics of wherever they move. Congressional Republicans had better take note of that potentially, politically devastating fact.

Larry Larsen, Mandan

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