"Hurricane Maria's destruction on Puerto Rico could spawn one of the largest mass migration events in the United States' recent history, experts say, as tens of thousands of storm victims flee the island territory to rebuild their lives on the U.S. mainland.
The displaced islanders, thousands of whom were awaiting flights yesterday from San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marín airport, might be among the nation's newest 'climate refugees,' a demographic that includes former residents of southernmost Louisiana and the shrinking islands of Alaska's Bering Strait.
'It could potentially be a very large migration to the continental United States,' said Maria Cristina Garcia, a Cornell University historian, immigration expert, and author on large-scale population shifts, which includes a forthcoming book on climate refugees.
'Whether that migration will be permanent or temporary is still anyone's guess,' Garcia added. 'Much depends on the relief package that Congress negotiates.'"