Governor Phil Murphy has authorized New Jersey State Troopers to be deployed to Puerto Rico to assist with recovery efforts in the aftermath of severe earthquakes that struck the island.

A seven-member advance team is scheduled to leave Wednesday for Caguas, where they will pick up supplies at FEMA Headquarters before traveling to the Ponce region of the island. 

Once there, they are expected to coordinate with local officials to prepare for a contingent of 50 State Troopers, which is scheduled to depart on Jan. 25 and to return on Feb. 9. 

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The deployment’s mission will consist of providing force protection at seven base camps that are currently housing between 2,000 and 5,000 residents on a daily basis.  Troopers will be assigned to major traffic control posts within the city limits for the duration of the deployment.  

Assistance is provided through the Emergency Management Assistant Compact (EMAC), a mutual aid agreement allowing states and territories to share resources in response to natural and man-made disasters. 

“Puerto Rico continues to be impacted by the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria, and now the island is also facing the aftermath of devastating earthquakes, leaving many families displaced and without a sense of normalcy,” Murphy said. 

“We will always stand with the people of Puerto Rico, and today, I have directed the New Jersey State Police to assist in emergency response efforts in order to help the people of Puerto Rico rebuild their homes and lives.”

State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, a Democrat who represents Newark, applauded Murphy's decision to send state troopers to the island.

“Puerto Rican culture is deeply woven into the social fabric of our communities, and our state has the third largest population of Puertorriqueños," said Ruiz, who is of Puerto Rican descent. “New Jersey stands with Puerto Rico and we are steadfast in our commitment to the island’s triumphant revival.”

Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr., who is also of Puerto Rican descent, said Puerto Rico is in desperate need of law enforcement.

"I want to thank Governor Murphy for joining Governor Cuomo in offering assistance to those living in Southern Puerto Rico who were affected by the recent earthquakes," Ramos said. "Because of the austerity measures imposed by the federal control board in recent years, law enforcement personnel in Puerto Rico is limited and the assignment of state troopers should be helpful."

Ruiz and Ramos along with other leaders from Newark, including Councilmen-at-large Luis Quintana and Carlos Gonzalez, joined with Sen. Bob Menendez last week to criticize President Trump's response to the latest natural disaster to hit Puerto Rico. They called on the U.S. government to take immediate action to help residents of the island.

“Once again we see how President Trump’s indifference and disdain towards U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico is exacerbating a crisis originated by a natural disaster,” Sen. Bob Menendez said at the January 17 press conference.