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In seeking connection to Puerto Rico, Vice President Kamala Harris finds a complicated picture

by | Apr 22, 2024 | Federal Government, Headlines, Puerto Rico | 0 comments

Vice President Kamala Harris (D), accompanied by US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman, visited Puerto Rico in March for a brief, five-hour tour, touting the White House’s fiscal support for the islands’ infrastructure, meeting with community leaders to discuss Puerto Rican culture, and attending a Democratic fundraiser. 

The Biden-Harris administration announced a series of financial aid plans launched in December 2022, including the Puerto Rico Economic Dialogue, which is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and HUD. This program aims to restore Puerto Rico’s economic sectors by investing a total of $140 billion in an attempt to gain stability and rebuild infrastructure throughout the territory. Reforms like these come after a recent succession of deadly hurricanes, including Maria, Irma, and Fiona, that crippled the Caribbean region through the dismantling of important utility, power, and housing frameworks. In light of significant planning ahead of the implementation of these new fiscal programs, Harris met with Governor Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D) to discuss the development and oversight of federal investments throughout the territory. The Vice President strategically scheduled their visit to align with Democratic party fundraisers and ahead of key Presidential primaries.  

In addition to governmental meetings, Harris visited a residential home in Canóvanas, where she delivered remarks on the progress of the Puerto Rico Economic Dialogue, emphasizing tangible deliverables as a result of the Biden-Harris administration’s ongoing commitment to Puerto Rico. The White House has highlighted other key successes on the island in recent months, including the addition of more than 100,000 new jobs, the boom in construction employment of close to 30 percent, historic low unemployment of under six percent, and a labor force participation reaching its highest level in over a decade. Afterward, Harris toured a community center in San Juan, where she met with local artists and community leaders to stress the impact of Puerto Rican culture, art, and ingenuity on the global community. 

Despite efforts made by Harris to connect with Puerto Ricans during her visit, the White House’s arrival was met with controversy. Many protesting groups openly expressed their discontent with the United States’ involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with the overdue timing of Harris’ visit. In some cases, protestors expressed great disdain for the visit, claiming that the Vice President had exploited the suffering of individuals affected by Hurricane Maria, using them to garner critical political support and campaign funding. Situated amongst the ongoing issue of Puerto Rico’s statehood, some protests center around the islands’ classification as a territory, which leaves Puerto Ricans disenfranchised from the full rights of citizenship. Protesters highlighted how Puerto Ricans living in the US territory lack a critical voting voice in presidential elections due to stagnant initiatives aimed at establishing statehood, claiming that Harris’ tour was a politically motivated attempt to gain the support of the 5 million Puerto Ricans who live in the incorporated United States and are subsequently eligible to vote in general elections.

While Harris connected with Puerto Ricans on the economic impacts made by the administration on the islands, the presence of protesters suggests public opinion of the Biden-Harris initiatives remains mixed.



Harper Godsey

Harper Godsey

Harper Godsey is a student at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. He is passionate about policy, public service, understanding history in order to change the future, and believes in global approaches to solving the most pressing contemporary issues. As the Captain of his debate team, he is deeply invested in mentorship and research on global and national affairs. When he is not on the debate stage, Godsey can be found hiking Colorado’s 14ers, playing chess, serving as an Outdoor Lab Leader where he educates youth on the history and ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains, and travelling with family. He is a Federal Affairs Intern Correspondent at Pasquines.


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