Watching the devastation in Puerto Rico and the on-going struggle to make contact with friends and family members in the wake of the biggest catastrophe in modern history has been brutal. Sleepless nights, frantic attempts at phone calls, texts and facebook messages have left some determined to hop on the first plane available to get on the ground to do SOMETHING, anything to help.
Most reports indicate that the recovery effort in Puerto Rico will be far from easy. Thousands remain in shelters. Critical infrastructure is devastated. Portions of the island are completely unreachable and wiped off the face of the map.
Make no mistake about it, the Puerto Rican community will not stand idly by and allow their family members to die in the streets. They will fight. They will rebuild. They will rise.
(EduMom, family and friends at the Puerto Rican relief benefit in Cambridge.)
But with no power on the island and years of recovery efforts expected — many of these American citizens will come here — especially to Massachusetts — where our beautiful and vibrant Puerto Rican communities are an integral part of the fabric of our Commonwealth.
Across the state — but especially in Springfield, Holyoke, Lawrence and Boston — we should be preparing these “Sanctuary Cities” to welcome the thousands of Americans who will need refuge in the coming years and help them to heal emotionally while providing them with the resources they need to find the security they deserve. Collecting water bottles is not going to cut it. We need money to be made available to these cities to provide direct support.
These are not “Those People.” These are “Our People.”
(Junot Díaz lending words of support and compassion as well as inspiration to fight to rebuild Puerto Rico.)
The Massachusetts State Legislature should be working to help prepare these communities to welcome these new members to our communities. This is a no-brainer. We cannot expect our gateway cities to step up without the full backing and support of the state legislature. This needs to happen NOW. Today.
And, of course, I also can’t help but worry about the school systems these children will find themselves dropped into — and what kind of education we are offering them. We continue to rest on our laurels and crow about Massachusetts being number one in the nation for education — but fail to address the massive achievement gaps that violate the rights of our Latino community to have schools that adequately educate our children. But now we will introduce children who have just witnessed the most traumatic event imaginable. We need to get ahead of this now. Emergency trauma resources are needed. Today.
Elected officials need to do more than show up for selfies and say they care about the Latino community. We need you to step up and take real, aggressive steps forward to ensure we prepare our communities with the housing, food and economic support they need to welcome our family here in the Commonwealth — whether it’s for five minutes, five years or five decades. And we need action now — not after resources have been exhausted and municipalities and school districts are scrambling.
We are watching.
What do you think?