Kathy Hochul traveled to Puerto Rico after the elections, and it wasn’t for a beach trip
New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced plans to open a Federal Affairs office for the Puerto Rican diaspora in the populous Bronx borough.
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Shortly after Kathy Hochul learned she was the winning candidate in the race for New York Governor against Lee Zeldin, she traveled to Puerto Rico to unveil a Puerto Rico Federal Affairs office in her home state.
Hochul offered preliminary details in a joint announcement with Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi following a signed memo that directs the New York Department of Labor to establish an administrative wing for the Puerto Rican diaspora.
The office will be known as the Puerto Rico Office of Federal Affairs (PRFAA), which now has a separate, live portal to schedule appointments.
"This brand-new office will help to ease the burden of locating important records and documents for Puerto Ricans in and around New York,” Hochul said in a statement. “I thank Governor Pierluisi and Congressman Torres for their partnership in bringing this resource to our state."
PRFAA will be located in the Bronx’s Fordham road, where the DOL currently maintains office space. The new wing’s selected location is adequate — the Bronx contains the largest concentration of Puerto Rican inhabitants in the state.
A previous office offering similar services was located in Times Square, but closed in 2017.
Prior to PRFAA’s existence, Puerto Rican residents residing in New York would previously need to travel back and forth for basic federal documentation, like birth certificates, and marriage licenses, among other basic records, to access services in the U.S.
With the PRFAA’s installment, the New York diaspora can process said documentation via local jurisdictions, eliminating the need for air travel.
How the office will execute this plan operationally is unclear. AL DÍA has reached out to Hochul’s office for comment and is awaiting response.
New York, historically, is a primary destination for the Puerto Rican diaspora, rivaled only by Florida. Both states house a sizeable population of the diaspora, who, according to the 2010 census, made up 8.9% of the overall population, nearing a million residents.
Those numbers were expected to rise when Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane María in 2017, a phenomenon that compelled Puerto Ricans to migrate to the U.S. in large swaths.
“Following Hurricanes Maria and Fiona, thousands of Puerto Ricans have come to [New York] to restart their lives after losing everything in the natural disasters,” said House Rep. Ritchie Torres, whose district covers much of the South Bronx.
Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S. is as straightforward as it is tricky. The island is a Commonwealth, and Puerto Ricans own passports that ease integration into the U.S., but accessing records is extremely limited.
And Puerto Ricans often have to rely on family members still living on the island or travel back and forth to secure federal records. A rising number of Puerto Ricans planting roots in the U.S. may cause states housing a large number of the diaspora to expand federal services.
“This is another way to continue stretching the bonds of affinity that we have with our brothers and sisters living in New York, the same way we do so in Florida,” said Pierluisi. “That way, we continue to add potential to opportunities for social and commercial exchange between both jurisdictions, promoting socio economic development for Puerto Ricans here and there.”
It is unclear if current DOL staff was tapped to oversee the Puerto Rican wing, and if it will offer bilingual services. AL DÍA has reached out to Hochul’s office to confirm and is awaiting response.
In the same press conference, Hochul also proclaimed November as Puerto Rican Heritage month in New York.