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This Is Why Puerto Rico Needs Statehood

With federal disaster relief lagging, residents of the devastated island territory have little say about what happens to them next.
Puerto Rican residents of San Juan wait in line people affected by Hurricane Maria wait in line at Barrio Obrero to receive supplies from the National Guard.
Puerto Rican residents of San Juan wait in line people affected by Hurricane Maria wait in line at Barrio Obrero to receive supplies from the National Guard.Carlos Giusti/AP

For a week after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the Trump administration declined to waive a set of shipping regulations in order to help speed food, gasoline, and other supplies to the island.

Just weeks earlier, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security waived the restrictions under the Jones Act—a 1920 law that limits shipping between U.S. coasts to U.S.–flagged vessels—in order to get aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida. The government has waived the act routinely after emergencies, though not without deliberation. Suspending the Jones Act takes more than a flip of a switch: Unless the request comes from the Defense Secretary, it faces several hurdles. [UPDATE 9/28: After mounting criticism, the administration changed course: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Thursday morning that the Jones Act was waived for Puerto Rico.]