Months after the worst disaster to ever hit Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island is slowly starting to see some normalcy. Yet the island is still plagued by food shortages, unreliable running water and the largest black out in U.S. history.
As conditions fail to improve, Puerto Ricans have fled the island. According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, more than 269,000 people have arrived in Florida from Puerto Rico since the hurricane. But the hurricane could trigger an even larger migration in the long term. The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at the City University of New York estimates that Puerto Rico will lose up to 470,335 residents by the end of 2019, about 14 percent of the island’s population. The Puerto Rican exodus is bound to have negative effects to the island’s already failing economy.
But the aftermath of Hurricane Maria has pushed advocates for Puerto Rican statehood to demand the island be made part of the union, and allow residents to reap the political and economic benefits they have been denied despite being American citizens. The congressional delegation who traveled to Capitol Hill is hoping the post-hurricane attention has raised awareness of the “second-class” status of Americans in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Ricans have been fighting about their political status for decades, however, Congress has shown little interest in changing the territory’s status.