‘Mass exodus’ from Puerto Rico may hit South Florida

Schools and hospitals are bracing for a surge of Puerto Rican evacuees in the destructive wake of Hurricane Maria

Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans may leave the hurricane-damaged island for South Florida.

Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico, says a “mass exodus” from the island to the mainland may be under way because of widespread damage by Hurricane Maria, which hit the island on Sept. 20.

Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools, said the school system is planning for a surge in enrollment by Puerto Rican students.

Gov. Rick Scott, who visited Puerto Rico on Thursday, has requested that Florida colleges and universities allow students who evacuated Puerto Rico to pay in-state tuition rates.

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U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, a native of Puerto Rico who represents a district in Central Florida, said he has contacted state officials to ensure that Florida’s hospitals and schools are braced for a flood of evacuees.

Juan Pagan, president of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County, said the state’s economy could benefit from a spike in the size of Florida’s Puerto Rican population, which now exceeds one million.

But Pagan also told the Sun-Sentinel that the economy of Puerto Rico could take a hit if a large segment of its educated and affluent population abandons the island. [Sun-Sentinel] Mike Seemuth