Puerto Ricans could flee to Central Florida, state rep says

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — While hundreds of thousands are still feeling the pain from the damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, a Florida state representative told Eyewitness News that Central Florida could see a mass exodus of Puerto Ricans.

"Think about it, kids may not be able to go to school for a whole year on that island.  Those parents are gonna want to send their kids somewhere where they can go to school," Rep. Renee Plasencia told Channel 9's Nancy Alvarez. "We're bracing of very large, large group, unprecedented."

There has already been a steady influx over the last two years due to the island's economic crisis.

Plasencia said he expects a major increase over the next two to four months, and it will impact housing, healthcare and education.

“K-12 and our university system. Valencia has already offered in-state tuition to any Puerto Rican who wants to come here and continue their studies,” Plasencia said.

Plasencia is working with local and state leaders to make sure Florida is ready for its role and he said he hopes Floridians are ready to embrace the Puerto Ricans coming here to heal.

There's 3.5 million people on the island of Puerto Rico, we’re gonna get a percentage of that. Many will stay and many will come because they don't have anything left there,” Plasencia said. “No matter where we go we are U.S. citizens. We need to welcome our brothers and sisters.”