The downward slide of Puerto Rico's economy through the past decade has started to impact migration patterns in the region. In recent years, there has been a reversal of the migration trend that has traditionally seen people from the Dominican Republic moving to Puerto Rico - within the larger trend of migrants from both countries moving toward the United States in search of employment opportunities, according to the Associated Press.
Seeking stable jobs or to start their own businesses, authorities say that exactly how many Puerto Ricans have moved to the Dominican Republic in recent years is difficult to determine because they fall under the broader category of U.S. citizens, but they maintain that the trend is undeniable: "It used to be extremely rare for a Puerto Rican to stop by and seek a work visa," Franklin Grullon, Dominican consul in Puerto Rico's capital of San Juan, told the Associated Press. "There's been a surge in all types of visas, and we believe this flow will only increase."
Most of the Puerto Ricans applying for business visas are young to middle-aged men, as Grullon described, with many seeking tourism sector jobs because their English-speaking skills generally make it easier to find work. There has also been a significant rise in the number of Puerto Rican professionals, including architects and engineers, who are traveling to the Dominican Republic in order to work in the country's thriving construction sector. "There's been a considerable change in the last two years," said German Monroig, executive director of the Office of Puerto Rican Affairs, according to Dominican Today.
Grullon said that even Dominicans are leaving Puerto Rico in increasing numbers to return home, with the illegal migration of Dominicans into the U.S. territory also reducing dramatically: the U.S. Coast Guard detained 1,565 Dominicans in 2004, compared with 133 in 2014, according to the Associated Press.
The main migratory draw is the Dominican's stronger economy, which had a second consecutive growth year in 2015, growing by 7 percent. This makes it the strongest economy in the Latin American and Caribbean region, as the Washington Post reports, with particular strength in construction, banking and tourism.
In contrast, Puerto Rico's economy has stagnated for almost a decade, and the U.S. territory's population of 3.5 million people faces an unemployment rate of 12 percent, along with $72 billion in public debt that has been deemed by the Governor Alejandro Padilla to be insurmountable, as the BBC has explained.
Even with Puerto Rico's debt restructuring talks to be held on Jan. 29, the flow of Puerto Ricans trying to escape the U.S. territory's economic crisis is likely to continue.