The State of Florida was expecting 100,000 new arrivals from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The actual number is twice that — so far. The Florida Division of Emergency Management pegged the number of newcomers at 230,000 on December 11, 2017.
7,756 students from Puerto Rico have enrolled in Florida public schools, mostly in Orange and Osceola counties, and Governor Scott has declared a State of Emergency to help cope with the costs.
In addition to the financial implications for Florida, there could be political implications as well. Florida has historically been a swing state — a state which can go Democratic or Republican in any given election.
The National Institute for Latino Policy lists three factors that could determine whether the new Puerto Rican influence will spell tough times for Republican majorities in Congress in the 2018 midterm elections and the Trump campaign in 2020:
- How many of the newcomers will stay in Florida until the 2020 elections? Some may return to Puerto Rico when electricity and clean water have been restored to the Island.
- How many will register to vote? Getting out the Puerto Rican vote in Florida will probably be a high priority task for campaigns on both sides of the political fence. Puerto Rico’s voter turnout rate has been as high as 80% in the past, a much higher number than in the States, but recent elections have seen lower turnout. Puerto Ricans in the States have also historically had lower voter participation than those living on the Island.
- How will the current administration’s policies affect Puerto Rico? NILP suggests that 2020 could be a chance for “Puerto Rico’s revenge,” but there’s still time for the administration to improve its image on this issue.
Observers, including members of Congress, have been predicting since the hurricane that the United States would, if it refused to provide sufficient aid in Puerto Rico, find itself providing that aid in the States. People born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens and can freely travel to any State. Once arrived in a State, they are eligible for assistance just as any U.S. citizen is.
Puerto Rico continues to face problems with basic services. Less than 70% of the Island has electricity, according to the Puerto Rico government, and some regions are still without reliable water and sewer services. Official predictions suggest that Puerto Rico may not have electricity fully restored until the summer of 2018.