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Puerto Rican Miami Legislator Sees 'Mass Transfer' Of People To Florida After Hurricane Maria

Courtesy Robert Asencio
Miami state Rep. Robert Asencio (center) with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz (left) and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine during a visit to Puerto Rico this week.

Puerto Rico’s hurricane crisis is a reminder that Puerto Ricans are South Florida’s fastest growing population. Puerto Rican state legislator Robert Asencio has just visited the island - and says the disaster may well mean an even bigger Puerto Rican community here.

When Asencio won the District 118 state representative seat in West Miami-Dade last year he was the first South Florida Puerto Rican elected to the state Legislature in 50 years. That means many Puerto Ricans here are looking to him after Hurricane Maria ravaged every part of the island of Puerto Rico last week.

Asencio, a Democrat, joined Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine on a visit this week  to Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan. They met with its mayor and delivered water and other badly needed aid.

“We saw flooded streets eight days after the storm." Asencio said Thursday as he met with Puerto Rican community volunteers loading more hurricane aid at a warehouse in Wynwood.

"About 90 to 99 percent of power is out. Water and sewage is non-existent. Most communication on the island is down. People on the side of the road were standing near cell towers just to see if they can get reception. People will wait three, four, five hours for $10 worth of gas. If they’re lucky.”

Asencio said that dire situation means the Trump administration needs to militarize more of its relief response. But since Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, he said the other big concern is an even greater exodus from the island to Florida.

“We need to prepare ourselves for a mass transfer of people," said Asencio. "Many we spoke to on the ground said they don’t want to leave – but how can they stay? Destination of choice: mostly Florida.”

Asencio and state House colleagues have sent a letter urging Gov. Rick Scott to help those potential Puerto Rican migrants relocate.