President Donald Trump’s administration is forcing desperate Puerto Rican hurricane victims to sign promissory notes and surrender their passports to guarantee full repayment for full-fare transportation costs off the hurricane-ravaged island, reports MarketWatch.
The administration is enforcing a longstanding but discretionary State Department policy that forces impoverished evacuees to sign a promissory note to pay transportation costs, which are based on “the price of the last commercial one-way, full-fare (not discounted) economy ticket prior to the crisis.”
The policy applies to all evacuees who boarded U.S. government aircraft or other vehicles to evacuate and “obligates an evacuated person to repay the cost of the transportation to the U.S. government.” A State Department official is required to hold an evacuee’s passport (unless he or she has another proper form of identification) until the promissory note is paid off.
“Upon evacuation, a Department of State official must limit an evacuee’s passport. In order to obtain a new passport, an evacuee must arrange payment as agreed upon via the promissory note,” the State Department website reads.
The loans are managed “by the Comptroller and Global Financial Services office in Charleston, South Carolina,” but cannot currently be repaid, reports The Hill.
“Currently, loan repayments cannot be completed due to ongoing emergencies in the region. We will update travel.state.gov/evacuate as soon as repayments can be made,” the State Department says.
“We’ve gotten A-pluses on Texas and in Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico,” Trump said Tuesday of his administration’s Hurricane Maria relief efforts. “But the difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. It’s a big ocean, it’s a very big ocean. And we’re doing a really good job.”
Despite the high marks he has given his administration, the situation on the ground is growing more desperate by the hour as mountains of food, water and other vital supplies has arrived in Puerto Rico’s main Port of San Juan but a shortage of truckers and the island’s devastated infrastructure are making it tough to move aid to where it’s needed most.
About 9,500 containers of supplies were sitting at the Port of San Juan Thursday morning, said Yennifer Alvarez, spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s governor.
Shipping company Crowley said it had 3,000 containers there, filled with clothes, food, medicine, water, construction materials and even cars, reports CNN. As of Wednesday, Crowley had only been able to dispatch 4% of those 3,000 containers, said Jose Ayala, the company’s vice president in Puerto Rico.
— Kate Bolduan (@KateBolduan) September 28, 2017