The migration rivals those from New Orleans to Houston after Hurricane Katrina and from Cuba to Miami during the Mariel boatlift according to the New York Times story on the "Great Migration".

More than 168,000 people have flown or sailed out of Puerto Rico to Florida since the hurricane, landing at airports in Orlando, Miami and Tampa, and the port in Fort Lauderdale. Nearly half are arriving in Orlando, where they are tapping their networks of family and friends. An additional 100,000 are booked on flights to Orlando through Dec. 31, county officials said.

The Puerto Rican population of Orlando has exploded from 479,000 in 2000 to well over one million this year, according to the Pew Research Center. The impact of this latest wave is likely to stretch from schools and housing to the work force and even politics.

Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens and tilt Democratic, could sway the electoral results of one of the country’s most pivotal swing states.

Bilingual Strains, Housing Strains

Educators are worried about the impacts and pressures because the kids are largely Spanish speaking.

The area’s two county school districts — Orange and Osceola — have taken in 3,280 new Puerto Rican students since the hurricane, 70 percent of the Florida total, according to district officials.

City administrators are worried about the lack of affordable housing, a problem even before the hurricane migration.

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Brain Drain

The New York Times article did not mention the impact on Puerto Rico. Those with money or talent are among those most likely to leave.

On September 29, Politico reported Puerto Rico’s Exodus Begins with a Trickle.

I’ve heard an estimated 15,000 Puerto Ricans from the island will be in Central Florida by mid-October,” said Ney Rivera Garcia, a founding member of Orlando-based Puerto Rican Action Initiative.

We are now at 168,000 and counting.

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