People For the American Way’s Latino Vote! program is proud to announce the launch of Hurricane of Change, a Puerto Rican vote campaign to hold Trump and Republicans accountable for their disastrous response to Hurricane Maria and the devastation it brought to Puerto Rico. The campaign will launch with ads in both English and Spanish featuring Rita Moreno, an award-winning Puerto Rican actress, encouraging Puerto Ricans to register and vote in November to create a #HurricaneOfChange this election.
This campaign comes on the heels of a fraught year for Puerto Rico. On Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at 6:15 a.m., Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico. The almost Category 5 storm destroyed 80 or 90 percent of some towns on the island. Six days after the hurricane made landfall, millions remained without clean water, power, and communications; almost 14,500 Puerto Ricans remain without power today. It took President Trump thirteen days to visit the island and the plans were announced only after mounting criticism. During the visit, Trump was seen on national television throwing paper towels to survivors who desperately needed a range of critical supplies just to survive. In the midst of a humanitarian crisis, Trump’s response was callous (like his attacks on San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz). He later joked that “you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.”
The government’s official death toll stands at 64, but by May 2018, one study estimated that around 5,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria. While some Puerto Ricans are returning to the island, because of challenges including a bad economy, a fragile power grid, and a slow rebuild, many are staying here to find jobs and apartments with their families on the U.S. mainland. About 136,000 migrants have moved from Puerto Rico settling primarily in Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, according to a PFAW analysis of FEMA statistics and school enrollment data published in in March 2018. Thousands of others migrated to states including New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, California, North Carolina, and Ohio.
PFAW will focus its first ad buy on the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, where Puerto Rican voters could help decide the results of local, state, and federal elections. The campaign is new to PFAW’s trailblazing Latinos Vote! program, which has for five years produced dozens of radio, digital, and TV ads—largely in Spanish—about the GOP’s anti-immigrant, anti-Latino policies.