By not sending the U.S. military to deliver humanitarian aid sooner, President Trump has unwittingly become the advocate-in-chief for extending the right to vote for U.S. presidential nominees in the general election to Puerto Ricans. No, he has not (yet) embraced the long-standing Republican Party plank favoring Puerto Rican statehood. Instead, he has left many islanders feeling so hopeless they are fleeing to the mainland — and, along with it, garnering the opportunity to vote for president. Labeling some Puerto Rican political leaders as “ingrates,” and by waiting to act, Trump is motivating desperate islanders to flee to the mainland — mostly Florida — where they automatically can vote for all federal office holders. Even as President Donald Trump landed at Muniz Air National Guard in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Tuesday afternoon, the first three relief centers opened in Miami and Orlando to welcome Puerto Rican newcomers to Florida.
Since Puerto Ricans have the same right as mainlanders to relocate anywhere in the U.S., Borinqueños, as they call themselves, can simply vote with their feet. No complex paperwork, no passport: Just move to Miami and register to vote. Easy-peasy.
The natural disaster is accelerating a trend already underway. Frank Lopez, president of metro Orlando’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce estimated recently that a quarter of a million people might leave the island, but other analysts who know Puerto Rico say that the numbers of Puerto Ricans who may depart for the mainland is between 500,000 — 1 million during the next 3-5 years.
Like residents of Washington, D.C., Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, subject to military conscription who do not have representation in the U.S. Congress. Unlike residents of D.C., Puerto Ricans cannot vote for the U.S. president.