We know that people are leaving Puerto Rico in record numbers. With 5.06% of Floridians now of Puerto Rican heritage, it’s hard to miss the influx from Puerto Rico to Florida.
Almost 84,000 people left Puerto Rico last year, and fewer people moved to Puerto Rico, resulting in a net loss of 64,000. While the Island has been showing a net loss for a decade, the current level of migration from Puerto Rico is the highest in the past half century.
The economic problems Puerto Rico is currently facing are the most common reason given for the large numbers of people leaving Puerto Rico and coming to live in a State. We’d also say that the people leaving Puerto Rico for Florida, New York, and other States are in effect voting for statehood again. They prefer to live in a State, where they can have full rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship, than to live in a territory.
Those who want to maintain the status quo should pay attention. The people who voted not to remain under territory status in 2012 — 54% of the voters — don’t have to continue living in a territory. Much as they love Puerto Rico, they are not willing to stay under the current circumstances. With less than 6% voting for independence in any of the plebiscites so far, the people of Puerto Rico clearly don’t want to give up U.S. citizenship.
Among the 5.1 million Puerto Ricans now living on the U.S. mainland, you may find a small number who will argue for a special “commonwealth” status or for independence, but you won’t see them choosing to live under territorial status, or to stay in Puerto Rico and hope for independence.
The alternative is statehood. Will the people of Puerto Rico work to build a strong new state from the weakness of territorial status? We believe they will.