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Millions of Puerto Ricans could migrate to mainland if action isn’t taken: governor

PUERTO RICO — Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Puerto Ricans could migrate to the mainland United States if the proper aids package is not passed, and action is not taken quickly, the island’s governor warned Wednesday.

Noelia Torres and Orlando Liam Bear, 1, are among dozens waiting in line to clear through security to catch a flight out of the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport as they try to fly to Florida after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 26, 2017. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“You’re going to have the potential of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Puerto Ricans seeking refuge in states such as New York, Florida or Texas. So our plea is, let’s take action, because that demographic shift is not beneficial for Puerto Rico, and it’s not beneficial for the states either.”

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló offered the stark warning during an interview with PIX11 Wednesday — exactly one week after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Yabucoa and tore through the island as a Category 4 storm.

The hurricane slammed Puerto Rico about two weeks after Hurricane Irma skirted by the island, also causing serious damage. The two events coming together to cause unprecedented damage.

"The devastation has been massive,” Rosselló said.

When asked if the federal government is doing enough, Rosselló responded:

The answer is yes. It’s just a little complicated. Puerto Rico is different from Florida or Texas, or even Jersey and New York when (Hurricane) Sandy hit. We don’t have a direct connection through land to get some of these resources. So we depend on airports, which air traffic control has been clogged. We depend on ports, which we have to rehabilitate so that we can get those resources. And right now, quite frankly, we have resources here. The challenging part is getting the logistics to the different sides of the island because we are down on telecoms.

The entire island — 3.4 million people — is essentially without power, and it could take months to restore.

The Trump administration has been "quick to respond," Rosselló said, in contradiction to concerns some, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have raised that President Donald Trump has not taken the devastation serious enough.

More needs to be done, however, according to Rosselló.

The governor thanked Cuomo and local Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, a native Puerto Rican, for their efforts.

Rosselló also thanked N.Y. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who spoke to Congress Tuesday about passing an aid package.

“I feel that there's going to be bipartisan support here, as it should. ... I just want to see it crystallize, because it could be the difference between going into a humanitarian crisis or helping us rebuild Puerto Rico stronger than ever,” Rosselló said.

Puerto Rico is part of the U.S., and simply deserves equal treatment, consistent with the size and magnitude of the damage, Rosselló said.

Anyone looking to help the island can contact the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration at 202-800-3133.