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Trump says he admires Puerto Ricans; They ask where proof is

William Douglas, Katie Glueck and Lesley Clark, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Weather News

NEW YORK -- "I grew up in New York," President Donald Trump boasts, "so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans. And these are great people, and we have to help them."

But here and in the halls of Congress, Puerto Ricans don't recall him having a particular affinity for or ties to the predominately Democratic-leaning community.

"There are no footprints that are permanent in terms of his relations with the Puerto Rican or Latino community," said Jaime Estades, an attorney and New York political consultant who is president of the Latino Leadership Institute.

"In general, I don't think he has the sensibilities. Yes, he has met Puerto Ricans, he grew up in the city. But to have a permanent relationship? I don't think there are pictures of Trump with Puerto Ricans, unless they're with J-Lo."

Trump's hands-off stance toward the devastated island's effort to recover from Hurricane Maria has some questioning whether his distance from his city's Puerto Rican community explains why he's seemed more concerned about protests by National Football League players than the island's desperate needs.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, mostly Democrats, have blasted Trump for what they consider his slow response to the storm. Large sections of Puerto Rico are without power, water, food or medical services more than a week after the storm roared through the U.S. territory as a Category Four hurricane.

Anger over Trump's response spiked following a Monday night tweet by the president. He wrote about hurricane devastation but also mentioned the island's debt crisis.

That was no surprise to many of his fellow New Yorkers. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat, said Trump has never had much interaction with Puerto Ricans in the five boroughs.

"Nothing that I am aware of," said Velazquez, the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House. "I just wonder, when did he learn that Puerto Ricans are American citizens?"

Trump, who has made no secret of his love for parades -- he boasted on the campaign trail that he was grand marshal of the 40th Salute to Israel Parade in 2004 -- is not known to ever have attended the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade that winds down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue -- in front of Trump Tower -- every June.

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