Trump admin forcing evacuees to pay for airfare
keeping passports as collateral

The Hill, By John Bowden - 09/28/17

The Trump administration is reportedly forcing evacuees from Puerto Rico to sign promissory notes ensuring full repayment for transportation costs and is keeping evacuees' passports as collateral.

MarketWatch reported on Thursday that the State Department is using a longstanding but discretionary policy to ensure that evacuees pay transportation costs, which are based on “the price of the last commercial one-way, full-fare (not discounted) economy ticket prior to the crisis.” 

Passports won't be returned to evacuees until payment is received, according to the news outlet, which cited the State Department's website.

“Upon evacuation, a Department of State official must limit an evacuee’s passport. In order to obtain a new passport, an evacuee must arrange payment as agreed upon via the promissory note," the website reads.

When those repayments can be made is a different story.

According to the State Department's website, the loans are managed "by the Comptroller and Global Financial Services office in Charleston, South Carolina," but cannot currently be repaid.

"Currently, loan repayments cannot be completed due to ongoing emergencies in the region. We will update as soon as repayments can be made," the State Department says.

The news comes as the Trump administration faces criticism for the pace of relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Most of the U.S. territory's 3.4 million inhabitants are without drinking water, and electricity could be down on the island for up to 6 months.

On Tuesday, Trump vowed that his administration would receive high marks for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

“We’ve gotten A-pluses on Texas and in Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico,” Trump said Tuesday. “But the difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. It’s a big ocean, it’s a very big ocean. And we’re doing a really good job.”
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