Puerto Rican Migration And Consequences

1182672486_1337For the first time in history, there are more Puerto Ricans living outside their island.  Estimates, say that more than 5 million Puerto Ricans are living in mainland (compared to close to 3.7 million living in the island) to go to NY, FL, GA, TX and VA.

Puerto Ricans are the second largest population of Hispanic origin in the US (after Mexico only).   In Georgia, their numbers are close to 100,000 and growing.

According to the US Census Bureau, Puerto Rico had a 0.51 percent decline of their population in 2012 (a 2.2 decline between 2000-2010), the biggest percentage loss by far of any U.S. jurisdiction.  The reason? Migration.

Puerto Ricans are fleeing Puerto Rico; a territory the size of Connecticut,  fraught with violence (over 1100 violent deaths in 2011), poverty, very few jobs and a recession of almost eight years; during which the public debt has skyrocketed to $70 billion and unemployment has climbed to almost 15%.  The island’s debt load accounts for 93 percent of its GDP.

At the beginning of this year, over 100 schools closed due to lack of students and/or funding. Until today (Aug 28th) there are dozens of students that have not started classes due to the lack of teachers in their schools or lack of transportation to their schools. The situation is worse for special need students.  Only about 40 percent of the working age population is in the labor force (according to Juan Carlos Hidalgo, a Latin America policy analyst at the Cato Institute) and the ones working and looking for jobs, want to leave.

An Ipsos poll commissioned by WAPA-TV  in October 2013 found 45 percent of islanders have considered leaving Puerto Rico in search of a better quality of life.  Projected over the entire population, the poll results indicate some 1.5 million people would consider leaving the island, while 419,000 of those have at least started a plan to move.

While Puertoricans are Latinos that don’t have to deal with visas and work permits (citizenship is a birthright in this US unincorporated territory) or in the case of Georgia, limitations to pursue higher education, they are here looking for better education, security and jobs. Exactly the same things all other immigrants look for.

With their numbers and their capacity to vote in the upcoming election, they CAN play a determining role in politics, especially in a swing state.  Remember that earlier this year, during the Georgia Primary Elections, Purdue won the nomination over Kingston for only by 8,000 votes.  In District 1, the difference during primaries was 20 votes.

This potential new power is already been seen in neighboring states, take for example Osceola County in Central Florida. The Hispanic vote increased 62% since President Obama took office, — a number most experts say is almost entirely attributed to the exodus from Puerto Rico.   Politicians are “discovering” Puerto Ricans.  Both Democrats and Republicans have visited the island and are worried on the impact of their vote in traditionally conservative states like Florida.

Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico do not traditionally align with a specific national party (Democrat / Republican) and while they can not vote in a general election; they have a say in who becomes President by voting in Democrat/Republican party primaries and on occasions they have become a battle ground.  Puerto Ricans traditionally are socially conservative yet almost half of the population in the island relies on federal subsidies and assistance. Their largest employer is the government.

Will Puerto Ricans follow the lead of Puerto Rican Rep. Luis Gutierrez (“El Gallito” – The little fighting rooster), possibly the only nationally recognized leader on comprehensive immigration?  or will they perpetuate the mistreatment of other migrants; just like at home?  In this case Dominicans that are low-wage and illegal domestic workers, cleaners and harvesters that consistently suffer hostilities and violence?

That is an important question that only Puerto Ricans can answer but we can all be impacted by the consequences.

To read more about the demographics of Puerto Ricans living in the US, you can visit this link from the Pew Center

Interesting articles about this new migration wave can be found HERE (NPR), HERE (Int’l Biz. Times) and HERE (Daily Caller) and HERE Orlando Sentinel.  To learn more about educational opportunities and child poverty in Puerto Rico, you can CLICK HERE

CORRECTION:  Since Puerto Ricans are citizens, we have changed the wording in the article to call their re-location “migration” not immigration.  Thank you to our readers for pointing that out to us.

Published by

Gilda (Gigi) Pedraza

Executive Director and Founder Latino Community Fund (LCF Georgia) Social Entrepreneur, Community Advocate, Latina, Mom, Wife. Lover of Life.

3 thoughts on “Puerto Rican Migration And Consequences

  1. Thank you for covering this issue. However, you should know that Puerto Ricans coming from the island to the mainland are not “immigrants” or involved in “immigration” because, as you said, we are born citizens. That concept refers to people moving from one country to another–not within a nation’s border. You wouldn’t describe someone moving from Detroit to Dallas immigration. We “migrate”.

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