Puerto Ricans Are Fleeing The Island En Masse As Debt Crisis Worsens

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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Puerto Rican residents are leaving the island in record numbers as the government defaults on its $70 billion of debt and its 10-year recession continues.

On net, nearly 2 percent of the population has left Puerto Rico for the United States, according to a report released Monday by the Institute of Statistics of Puerto Rico. That’s some 64,000 people and the highest recorded figure in the last decade. 

“In 2014, it is estimated that some 84,000 people emigrated from Puerto Rico to the United States, and in the opposite direction, about 20 thousand people immigrated from the United States to Puerto Rico – resulting in a net migration of 64,000 people between Puerto Rico and the United States,” the findings say when translated into English.

The study, which looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, found around 230 people are leaving every day. The report also found over the course of the past four years, around 12,000 residents holding white-collar jobs have left the territory.

“The island has made an investment in the form of their education but won’t reap the rewards of that,” Héctor Cordero Guzmán of Baruch College told NBC. “These migrants will spend their most productive years off the island and they take their economic activity with them.”

The last time the island faced large quantities of residents leaving was in the 1950s, when it experienced a wave a migration due to high unemployment rates. Now the Government Development Bank, the fiscal manager of the Island’s debt, has defaulted on most of its $422 million payment due Monday and faces an even larger payment come July.

“If this observation is confirmed, we are experiencing the largest exodus in the history of Puerto Rico, and in the years when the history of the current wave of immigration is written it will be described as the Second Great Migration and Second Great Exodus of Puerto Rico, ” Dr. Mario Marazzi-Santiago, the executive director of the institute, said in the translated statement.

The U.S. House of Representatives has been working on legislation allowing the island to restructure its debt and is expected to release a redrafted bill when it returns from its week-long recess.

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