How Can Puerto Rico Become The 51st State of USA?
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
After my yoga class, I was walking behind two Puerto Rican ladies chatting about the referendum for “statehood”. This jogged my memory about having heard something on the radio that morning…something about less than a quarter of the eligible registered voters voted on that referendum. It’s about time! “Territory” always struck me as an anachronistic term, left over from the days of colonial imperialism. Puerto Rico should either become the 51st state of USA or become independent. No more being a “territory”. Apparently, this is not the first time the question of statehood had been posed to the Puerto Rican people. Votes were held in 1967, 1991, 1993, 1998, and 2012. The 2012 referendum was the first time the popular vote swung in statehood’s favor. Since these votes were nonbinding referendums, no action had to be taken, and indeed, no action was. Political analysts, at the time, said the 2012 vote outcome indicated an overwhelming desire to change the status ( to statehood, independence, or something else.)
At the moment, a Puerto Rican is a resident of U.S. Commonwealth, Puerto Ricans:
- have their own constitution
- have their own governor
- only pay federal income tax on work done within the United States
- pay into Social Security and have access to Medicare and Medicaid, but not some other government programs
- do not have a vote in the U.S. Congress
- can vote in presidential primary elections, but not in presidential elections
- are natural-born U.S. citizens
*There are also a million more Puerto Ricans living on the mainland United States than those living in Puerto Rico.
In order for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state, Congress would have to pass a statute to admit Puerto Rico as a state. Every state after the original 13 colonies had been admitted under “New States” clause in the U.S. Constitution.
Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the US Constitution
New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.
Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1
To help to shed some more light on the subject, please view this video with John Oliver recorded about a year ago, below:
Now, for a bit of background and history about Puerto Rico, below, in italics, taken from wikipedia:
Puerto Rico (Spanish for “Rich Port”), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit. “Free Associated State of Puerto Rico”) and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea.
It is an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller ones such as Mona, Culebra, and Vieques. The capital and most populous city is San Juan. Its official languages are Spanish and English, though Spanish predominates. The island’s population is approximately 3.4 million. Puerto Rico’s rich history, tropical climate, diverse natural scenery, traditional cuisine, and attractive tax incentives make it a popular destination for travelers from around the world.
Originally populated by the indigenous Taíno people, the island was claimed in 1493 by Christopher Columbus for the Crown of Castile during his second voyage. Later it endured invasion attempts from the French, Dutch, and British. Four centuries of Spanish colonial government transformed the island’s ethnic, cultural and physical landscapes primarily with waves of African slaves, and Canarian, and Andalusian settlers. In the Spanish imperial imagination, Puerto Rico played a secondary, but strategic role when compared to wealthier colonies like Peru and Mexico. Spain’s distant administrative control continued right up until the end of the 19th century helping to produce a distinctive creole Hispanic culture and language that combined elements from the Natives, Africans, and Iberian people. In 1898, following the Spanish–American War, the United States appropriated Puerto Rico together with most former Spanish colonies under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
Puerto Ricans are by law natural-born citizens of the United States and may move freely between the island and the mainland. However, Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the United States Congress, which governs the territory with full jurisdiction under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. As a U.S. territory, American citizens residing on the island are disenfranchised at the national level and may not vote for president and vice president of the United States. However, Congress approved a local constitution, allowing U.S. citizens on the territory to elect a governor. A 2012 referendum showed a majority (54% of those who voted) disagreed with “the present form of territorial status”, with full statehood as the preferred option among those who voted for a change of status, although a significant number of people did not answer the second question of the referendum. A fifth referendum was held on June 11, 2017, and “Statehood” and “Independence/Free Association” were initially the only available options. However, at the recommendation of the Department of Justice, a “current territorial status” option was added. The referendum showed an overwhelming support for statehood, with 97.18% voting for it, however the voting turnout had a historically low figure at just 22.99% of registered voters voting in the referendum.
In early 2017, the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis posed serious problems for the government. The outstanding bond debt had climbed to $70 billion at a time with 12.4% unemployment. The debt had been increasing during a decade long recession. This was the second major financial crisis to affect the island after the Great Depression when the U.S. government, in 1935, provided relief efforts through the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration. On May 3, 2017, Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board in the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico filed the debt restructuring petition which was made under Title III of PROMESA.
It’s time to treat Puerto Rico as an island with 3.5 million American citizens whose fates are interwoven with ours. They need our help!
At this point, I would like to also share this video below by John Oliver in 2015 on U.S. Territories, below:
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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