Puerto Rican Exodus To Florida Changing State’s Politics

Image courtesy of Progreso Weekly

“Puerto Ricans will soon displace Cubans as the largest Latino group in Florida.” (NBC News)

According to NBC News, over 180,000 Puerto Ricans have migrated to Florida in the aftermath of hurricane Maria, and both political parties are taking note of the population's ability to sway elections.

As American citizens living on the island, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in presidential elections and can send only nonvoting representatives to Congress. But once they make the move and are living on the mainland, they only need to register to be eligible to vote.

Experts say most who have arrived in Florida will likely stay, though some in older generations might return to the island.

They are joining over 1 million who already live in the state, many of them coming in recent years fleeing the economic crisis on the island. At the rapid pace the population is growing, Puerto Ricans will soon displace Cubans as the largest Latino group in Florida.

Angelo Falcón at the National Institute for Latino Policy believes Puerto Ricans in Florida tend to vote Democratic, though others think they are mostly up for grabs.

He believes Trump has further alienated Puerto Ricans from the Republican Party with the administration’s slow response to hurricane relief. Many Puerto Ricans have expressed anger at comments Trump made when he blamed the beleaguered island for a financial crisis “largely of their own making” as well as critical tweets saying Puerto Rican leaders “want everything to be done for them.”

Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat and the first Puerto Rican from Florida elected to Congress, says his is a constituency that "you have to earn."

He calculates that Florida Puerto Ricans have been about 50 percent Democratic, 25 percent Republican, and 25 percent independent.