San Juan Mayor: “This is not a Good News Story”

September 29, 2017

I’ve written many times about the intersection of climate denial and racism.

Add to that incompetence. All of it on full frontal hideous display in Puerto Rico.


Thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican refugees will be coming to the US, many to southern states, many to Florida.
Possible political ramifications. Will they remember how a Republican President treated them when it mattered?

The crisis in Puerto Rico could send tens of thousands of people to Florida, accelerating an already steady exodus from the economically depressed island and triggering wide-ranging effects on schools, housing and jobs.

“This is a humanitarian crisis and Florida needs to brace for the influx,” said Dennis Freytes, a political activist in the Orlando area. “Many of the people coming are the most vulnerable. I’m desperately trying to get my 92-year-old mother out of there and haven’t been able to even with my connections.”

The wave might also carry political ramifications.

Gov. Scott back in Washington Friday to meet with Trump ]

“Florida is a big swing state and Central Florida is the epicenter of that,” Freytes said. “This could be a very big deal. There are going to be voter registration drives and both parties are going to be after them. They already are.”

More than 1 million Puerto Ricans already reside in Florida — some 1,000 families relocating each month — double the number in 2000 and now rivaling New York.

The growth, largely around Orlando but also in Tampa Bay, has outpaced the overall population increase in Florida as well as that of Hispanics overall.

Now Hurricane Maria could send as many as 100,000 more Puerto Ricans to the state, adding to growing political clout, just as waves of Cubans decades ago formed a potent voting bloc in Miami.

In a state of more than 20 million, it may not seem like a big deal. But top Florida elections are often decided by narrow margins. “It’s a state where little tiny changes matter,” said Democratic strategist Steve Schale.

Until recently, Cubans were reliable Republican votes. By contrast, Puerto Ricans, who arrive as U.S. citizens, have largely favored Democrats and are elevating members of the community to power. Last year, Democrat Darren Soto of Orlando was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first Puerto Rican to serve in Congress from Florida.

“It only makes sense that when you have a large, growing population, it will gain some influence,” said Emily Bonilla, a Democrat who last year was elected to the Orange County Commission. “We as Puerto Ricans care about our families, the community and supporting each other.”


It’s too early to know how many of the island’s 3.4 million residents will try to leave or just how ready communities in the mainland U.S. are to absorb them. If migration patterns hold, much of the influx will be to the South.

A Pew Research Center study shows that as the island was in the early throes of its current economic crisis and bankruptcy, about 48% people leaving Puerto Rico moved to the South, including 31% who relocated to Florida.

More than a million people of Puerto Rican descent live and work in Orlando, home of Walt Disney World. Monse Vargas, the president of the non-profit La Casa de Puerto Rico, said preparations must be made for temporary housing, job training and other social services should families there take in evacuees.

Officials in Florida and other states were readying resources. Florida will assist with “whatever is needed, both in Puerto Rico and in Florida,” said Kerri Wyland, a spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Scott has asked the state’s public colleges and universities to allow students displaced by the storm in Puerto Rico to pay tuition at an in-state rate.

New Jersey, which sent a task force and resources to Florida, South Carolina and Texas in response to hurricanes earlier this month, is preparing to send aid to Puerto Rico as soon as the Federal Emergency Management Agency tells them what’s needed.

Meanwhile, the situation in Puerto Rico, where nearly half of the population lives below the poverty rate, grows more dire by the day. While there is no shortage of people who want to fly in with supplies, the logistics are daunting. There are roads that remain impassible because of the damage. Some communities on the island are so remote they are only accessible by helicopter. Loved ones living stateside worry, and feel helpless.


One Response to “San Juan Mayor: “This is not a Good News Story””

  1. wpNSAlito Says:

    “Will they remember how a Republican President treated them when it mattered?”

    Please. Trump was crapping all over Hispanics since Day One.

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