It's been months since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, leaving destruction that the island is still trying to overcome. Massachusetts has some unique ideas to help with that recovery effort and the governor of Puerto Rico was on Beacon Hill Tuesday to hear them.
Governor Ricardo Rosselló was in Massachusetts visiting his alma mater, MIT, where he graduated in 2001 with a degree in biomedical engineering. Rosselló was there to encourage students to help rebuild Puerto Rico.
After that, Rosselló met with Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh when word got out that the Board of Higher Education had just unanimously voted to give in-state tuition to displaced Puerto Rican students living in Massachusetts following the hurricane.
"There will be a time where we will call back upon those that have left when we will reach normalcy and we can start rebuilding, but in the meantime, giving that to the students of Puerto Rico is a great blessing," Rosselló said.
Gov. Baker says Massachusetts has already enrolled more than 1,800 students in grades K-12.
"We have been working to ensure that the schools kind of absorb those kids and make sure those kids get the education they need," he said.
But it is unclear how many Puerto Ricans will take advantage of the in-state tuition break.
Whatever the cost, Walsh says we should be doing for Puerto Rico what we would be doing for any state in a similar situation.
"The average citizen doesn’t understand, Puerto Rico is part of the United States of America," Walsh said. "It’s not a foreign government, it’s not a foreign country, it’s part of the United States of America."
Rosselló, a strong supporter of making Puerto Rico a state, took the opportunity to send a message to Congress - that the tax bill being considered would only penalize Puerto Rico by treating it like a foreign country.
"In my view, this is offensive," he said. "And it is a complete byproduct of the second class citizenship that we were exhibiting as Puerto Ricans because we don’t have this representation."
Meanwhile, the number of evacuees fleeing the island has increased in recent weeks and more families are expected to arrive in Massachusetts after the holidays.