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Hundreds Of Puerto Rican Kids Arrive In Northeast Ohio, With More On The Way

Dan Ramos
State Rep. Dan Ramos of Lorain, left, attended the Puerto Rico Unity March in Washington, D.C.

While the Trump administration struggles with disaster response, Northeast Ohio’s Puerto Rican community is welcoming children displaced by Hurricane Maria and trying to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Almost 200 children have come to Cleveland and Lorain from Puerto Rico, and more are expected before the end of the year.

State Rep. Dan Ramos of Lorain says he’s been alerting school officials in both cities that the kids who will be coming here will likely need more than education.

“They’re going to need ESL classes. They’re going to need some other kinds of help,” Ramos said. “I remember the stories my Dad told about when he came in the 1950s and, never having seen winter before, never owned a coat.”

Ramos says people in his district – which already has a large Puerto Rican population – have been very welcoming, but he’s disappointed in the Trump administration's response to the hurricane.

Ramos was in Washington, D.C., over the weekend for the Puerto Rico Unity March, which he hopes sent a message about what he sees as President Trump’s inadequate response following the hurricane.

Puerto Rico had asked for $94 billion in relief aid, but last week the White House asked Congress for $44 billion to cover Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In Lorain, he says the non-profit group El Centro has been helping coordinate efforts for families arriving here from the island.

Ramos adds that people relocating to this area often come because they already have family here. And he says they might be attracted to the lower cost-of-living compared to places like New York City or Chicago.

But the decision to leave the island may not be driven just by family or finances.

“If the option is between a kid having a warm house, food and going to school or not, then they should do that,” Ramos said. “But in some cases that’s on the island; in some cases it’s not. So I do think it’s family-by-family and, in some cases, community-by-community. It’s worse in the mountains than in the city.”

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. A graduate of Hudson High School, he received his Bachelor's from Kent State University. While a Kent student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.