As Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, civic organizations and leaders were organizing a response to the devastation that would soon come to the island. Since the storm knocked out Puerto Rico’s entire electrical grid and left most without running water and with little to no ability to communicate with the outside world, there has been a tremendous outpouring of support from people in the communities that I represent and across Illinois.

Unfortunately, our president has turned what should be an opportunity to unite people to help their fellow citizens into yet another divisive talking point. President Trump’s comments that government officials in Puerto Rico should be proud that only 16 people perished in this disaster and his focus on budgetary lines over human suffering make it clear that his federal government cannot be counted on in times of need. Thankfully, our compassionate state and local leaders are stepping up to bear a larger responsibility in assisting to our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico in their time of need.

Illinois’ response to the hurricane is a personal issue for me. Both of my parents are from Puerto Rico, and I still have several family members living there. As a Chicagoan of Puerto Rican descent, it is crucial to me that we do what we can to help our fellow Americans. As the center of the seventh-largest Puerto Rican community in the country, Chicago is uniquely situated to do so.

Our president’s version of helping the people of Puerto Rico is throwing paper towels into a crowd. It is time for states to step up and take the lead.

This is not a red or blue political issue, but rather a red white and blue issue. In addition to donations of food and water and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s recent mobilization of the Illinois National Guard to help with disaster relief, organizations and churches in Chicago are putting together a medical envoy. Sen. Iris Martinez and I reached out to Gov. Rauner to ask for the National Guard’s help in getting these medical professionals to the island.

The outpouring of support and compassion across Chicago and Illinois has helped make up for the cynical politics of the president toward the people of Puerto Rico.

This is only the beginning of a long recovery effort. I will continue to do whatever I can, both in my role as a State Senator and as a private citizen, to assist those affected by this tragedy. Predictions suggest that parts of the island will be without electricity for months, prompting many Puerto Ricans to consider relocating to the mainland. Should those displaced by the hurricane come to Illinois, we should all be prepared to lend a hand and welcome them with open arms to a strong and caring community.