This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Gabe Pressman hosts with Joseph Monsarrat, Director of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's office in NYC answering questions about Puerto Rican immigration.
Panelists: Martin Birmingham, Ursula Mahoney, and Fred Goldsweig
Mosarrat dispells myths about Puerto Rican immigration and immigrants to the U.S. State aid for non-residents. Whenever there is an increase in job opportunities, migration goes up. 35,000 Puerto Ricans are on relief. Job placement services for those on welfare. "You don't knock people down when they're already down." Puerto Rico is doing a good job of rehabilitating itself. Information on luring industry to Puerto Rico through tax laws.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71998
Municipal archives id: LT6601
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
The Montserrat do you think we are stopping the Puerto Rican problem in the Arctic do you think Puerto Rican there are a burden on New York City from its Puerto Rican immigration falling off for the answers to these and other questions listen well to campus press conference or transcribe program in which college editors interview a prominent personalities in the news and here to introduce today's panel and their guest is radio reporter Gabriel Passman Good morning and welcome to another edition of caps press conference our guest today is Joseph Montserrat director of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's office in New York City and here to interview Mr master at our mark in Birmingham of Washington Square College Ursula Mahoney of Hunter College and Fred gold why of Columbia University now the first question a problem Arsalan Mahoney movements at this week councilman Barnes offered a resolution to Rossman the phones all people who are not live here two years now since this was in his own words mainly aimed at Puerto Rican Would you care to comment on this well I think Mr. Burns's. Bill is based on. Assumptions which the general public are people not in official positions might have but which seem to me that a person who is drafting laws should know the facts before he begins to draft the law and as welfare commissioner. McCarthy stated. Puerto Ricans do not come to New York to get on the leaf and he has figures to prove it and so do we from our office. Let me just say the following in relation to New Yorkers and relief in order to get there are two kinds of public assistance in New York City one is for residents and one is for nonresidents and nonresident is considered a person who has been here less than a year in the city and the state keep pretty close track of people who have been here less than a year for a very simple reason and that is that the state not the city the state pays the full bill for people who are receiving nonresident relief. But there are now about three thousand such people in the city of New York and I don't think that half of them a Puerto Rican. McMansion What effect do you think this would have on the Puerto Rican population if this bill happened to pass. If by that you mean will the Puerto Rican migration subside because the bill inferring again that they come here for relief the answer is that I think it would have comparatively little effect on migration because migration since one thousand nine hundred eight has been regulated by employment opportunities we keep record of migration figures from Puerto Rico since one thousand nine hundred eighty and we've charted the employment record figures and we charted the business cycle and since one thousand nine hundred eight whenever there is a an increase in job opportunities the migration goes up when there is a decline in job opportunities and through every major depression more Puerto Ricans have gone back than come up we knew for example that we were in for. Well it's sort of subversive to say depression but we were in for a rolling adjustment A long before the labor economists mentioned it because what our office has termed the family intelligence service had already been sending that information back to Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican migration this year dropped by sixty eight percent as compared to last year what are the actual figures on Puerto Ricans on relief in New York. Well let me use Mr Barnes figure thirty five thousand. He said and let me just let me just quote some other things to you at the height of Puerto Ricans on the league. Like to just for a second to refer to a paper thirty five thousand Puerto Rican were really a lot of a population of five hundred has a million right and this thirty five thousand incidentally compares to the height of the Puerto Rican. Really slowed right after just before the outbreak of to Korean War In June one hundred fifty one out of three hundred sixty three thousand persons that is Puerto Rican that there were thirty five thousand on a release of these thirty five thousand families persons are how would you classify them. Ice I'm not clear the classification but I think it's persons It's the it's the it's the Department of Welfare. Total figure I think it's persons and not cases that's approximately seven percent. Yes And other words when there were three hundred fifty thousand Puerto Ricans in New York there were thirty five thousand Puerto Ricans on the lakes there are now a half a million Puerto Ricans in New York there are still only five thirty five thousand part of a concern only I'm dating a drop Robin an increase and I'm still a drop in the in the percentage yes what. What is the proportion of Puerto Ricans on relief compared to other people. Well it's it's probably a little higher due to a number of reasons first of all you have to break relief down into different categories. We generally think of relief in a broad things in a broad way Actually you have aid to dependent children as part of relief mothers with children who cannot work who have no fathers they are on the so-called relief or you have aids to the aged which is a different kind of employment but what people generally think of as relief is the relief given to able bodied people who can work and actually the department of well for New York has a wonderful program of securing employment they have for those who are who can't get employment because of the language difficulty they have set up special English classes and they have practically everyone who can work working and Incidentally there was all those thirty five thousand on relief are some of them. Working well some people working got supplemental early that is that they they don't earn enough to meet the minimum the subsidies and so part of the world there helps them with a supplemental life I would imagine that some of those thirty five thousand would be using their knowledge for these thirty five thousand cannot be employed at present that they are children or for some reason cannot be employed Well no I'm not saying that I'm saying that there are part of that group who are women with children who because of lack of day care facilities or other means of taking care of their children cannot work. But we know they will continue on the relief wells and definitely not necessarily they will continue until such time as they are able to find a means of taking care of their children which is done continuously there was a study done on the Puerto Rican zone released by a group Heil and one of the things that the study discovered was this the Puerto Rican migrant coming to New York generally gets on relief later than other people coming in and gets off really soon. So actually what you're saying to sum up is that the Barnes Bill consummate Barnes's bill is based on a false promise that Puerto Ricans come here to get out really definitely I don't that we haven't asked you this but I was wondering from the U. Maine Agel whether. You personally think that it's a very Marvel. Well in the bill I let me let me say this I think that. This is the kind of thinking which is beginning to have less and less attraction among and white people particularly in the social social work area you don't knock down the guy who's already down that's part of our sportsmanship you try to help people pick themselves up many people who come into this city as commissioner McCarthy said come here to seek employment we have people who come into our state for example to pick bean crops to pick our food because we don't have. Agricultural workers and many of these families for reasons completely beyond their control sometimes find themselves in difficulty a helping hand at that moment will help to re vitalized that family get them back on going again and actually in the long run it is cheaper than attempting to set up this kind of a system because then you have transportation problems the sun try to send people back where they coming from the private agencies which are doing a different kind of job will then have to try to meet the needs of these folks and among people who know the social service situation and they claim this is from a humane point of view comparatively inhumane and more importantly perhaps to people who are considering budgets from a fiscal point of view it's cheaper for getting at this question on a little broader view don't you think the problem or the so-called problem of human eyes in this situation would be better to attack the problem at the level of Puerto Rico in other words improving conditions there first for improving conditions here this question for Mr Gould why well the point is that things are happening in Puerto Rico at a rate that they are not happening anywhere else Number one the Puerto Rico is doing a fantastic job in relation to rehabilitating itself from a completely underdeveloped one A one crop economy Island a few short fifteen twenty years ago and it is today emerging rapidly as a diversified island with industry and. Diversified agriculture unemployment has been cut tremendously. But I just let me give you an idea of Puerto Rico's economic status by giving you a few indices the death rate in Puerto Rico is lower than the death rate in the continental continental United States we have a death rate of nine point six Puerto Rico has a death rate of eight point one. Per capita income Puerto Rico has the fourth highest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere as the twenty sixth highest in the world by capita income is four hundred seventeen dollars which is pretty poor but sometimes when United States forget that the rest of the world is a pretty poor place these are strict strides that the island has been making which have been tremendously successful but I think we shouldn't discuss Mr Burns Bill solely from the point of view of Puerto Ricans Puerto Ricans are not the only group migrating into the into New York on to any other areas thirty million Americans according to the Census Bureau moved their homes every year ten million move from one county to another county five million move from one state to another state in the last three years fifteen million Americans have moved from one state to another and just to bring it in relation to Puerto Rican as I know it is five years in the last three years three years these are hundred forty eight thousand one point a week it's not fair on this matter of Puerto Rico helping itself has that been with the help of the government of the United States also or is that just a local movement. Well I mean this is. This if you mean does the government of the United Yeah it's a good point Rico money to help to interact economic aid there no not not directly we only receive. Grants and aid like some of the states still receive money for roads and other things primarily from my defense point of view money for Social Security for the employment service and other federal agencies like other states do but as to direct funds for the development of the Island other than housing and things of that sort of the answer is now it's done by the Commonwealth Fund by its own industrialization program which was begun. Ten years ago. And this is a major biologic do you think party can still favor independence from the United States well I don't think that there's ever been a question that they do we've had four elections in which this this is never been a an issue of point is that Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans want association with the United States and they voted for it they have established a commonwealth status they have a stat which their own constitution and on three different elections they've shown that this is what they want by an overwhelming majority and why do you think they want it I mean let one of the general reasons Well a number of reasons first of all either statehood or independence would probably mean financial ruin for the island. Not probably it would mean it's been figured out. Number one number two that Puerto Ricans are going to be pretty proud of their citizenship. They've shown it in the field of battle and they've shown it many words else since words are pretty much a topic of conversation these days let me just give you a figure one out of every twenty nine Americans who died in Korea was a Puerto Rican in the front. And they have fought in all of our major wars knife are in all of our major fronts now. But this isn't the only contribution they make they make many others. I happen to feel that close ties with the United States there I can understand how possibly Puerto Rico as you say might be ruined by complete independence but you said also it would be ruined if it were a state how does that come about well not ruined I'm not saying room in what I am saying is that from a from a point of view of development Puerto Rico as a an area. Commonwealth. Without Representation voting representation in Congress there is no federal taxation if Puerto Rico became the state top probably one third of the budget which it uses for self help and self development now what have to be spent in the in terms of taxes and for example. Out of about a budget of one hundred fifty million dollars maybe fifty million dollars would have to go for that well not just let me give you an idea where the fifty million dollars go right now Puerto Rico spends twenty five percent of its total budget for education and since this is radio and radio or is known for commercials let me make a commercial pitch I'm not particularly. No other state can make that statement. We can say the same thing for health eighteen percent of the budget of Puerto Rico goes for health and again this is a statement that we can make so that almost fifty percent of that budget is used for education and health well then the United States doesn't aid Puerto Rico economically by collecting less taxes that is that is a pretty direct way of well just let me tell you something just let me give you a brief rundown on this American island's market for U.S. goods the people of Puerto Rico buy merchandise from the United States last year for example to the tune of four hundred seventy one million four hundred fifteen thousand five hundred three dollars In other words we've spent about a million and a half dollars a day in purchases from the United States it's this is pretty much a two way street. We have we sold back incidentally. Easily one hundred million dollars less Mr Birmingham How is this a matter of a tax freedom for corporations being free for taxes for approximately ten years I believe working out is that attracting the industry to Puerto Rico Well yes we have three hundred thirty some of new industries opening up in Puerto Rico in just the last six years and this is one of the reasons incidentally why migration has dropped this POS the. The lack of job opportunities in the United States which I said before. Tax. Holiday as we