Puerto Rico has officially requested statehood, with both the governor and the Resident Commissioner appearing before Congress with the Puerto Rico Statehood Commission, calling on Congress to admit Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the Union.
Congress must make Puerto Rico a state.
The U.S. Congress is in charge of creating states. A vote could be taken today, and if the majority of the representatives vote for statehood for Puerto Rico, it would happen.
Here’s the law about that, from 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.”
We have heard claims that all sorts of conditions must be met:
- Puerto Rico would have to be richer.
- Residents of Puerto Rico would all need to speak English fluently.
- There would have to be another territory ready for statehood, to join the Union at the same time.
- Everyone in Puerto Rico would have to choose statehood.
As you can see from the Clause quoted above, none of these things is actually a legal requirement for statehood. If you are confused about this, read “10 False Things People Believe about Puerto Rico’s Path to Statehood.”
Since no part of Puerto Rico is claimed by any state, Congress can make Puerto Rico a state at any time.
Congress is not paying attention to this issue — they have a lot of other things on their minds. The trick, for Puerto Rico, is to get the attention of Congress and make sure the vote takes place.
How do territories get the attention of Congress?
32 territories have become states so far. Looking at the ways they achieved admittance tells us a lot about how a territory can become a state.
- Iowa decided it was ready for statehood, but argued with Congress about their borders until a compromise was reached. This kind of negotiation was part of many territories’ path to statehood.
- Michigan tried the Tennessee Plan, as Puerto Rico is doing. Congress ignored their requests for statehood for quite a while, and they had to send more than one set of delegates, but they persevered and they achieved statehood.
- Louisiana wanted the benefits of statehood, but worried about losing their language and culture if they became a state. There was a lot of debate in Congress and in Louisiana, but it became clear that statehood was the only realistic option, and Louisiana became a state.
- Vermont threatened to become an independent nation — or even to go back to being a British colony — if they weren’t given statehood. Neither of those ideas was a realistic choice for Vermont, but 15 years of conflict over the possibility ended in statehood.
- Alabama never held a status referendum, but they sent their constitution and delegation to Congress and were admitted within two months.
In short, every territory had issues and obstacles, but very one has been admitted as a state. No territory so far has requested statehood and been refused… although many territories had to wait and work to achieve statehood.
Puerto Rico is ready for statehood.
It is time for statehood for Puerto Rico. Independence is not a practical option, and the people of Puerto Rico do not want independence. This status option has never gotten more than 5% of the vote in any status vote, and there has never been a governor from the Independence Party.
Remaining a territory is not a good idea, either. As Governor Rossello has pointed out, the fact that Puerto Rico still doesn’t have electricity and running water for all residents shows that being a territory is not a good deal. It may be a good deal for some individuals, but it’s not good for Puerto Rico as a while.
It’s also not good for the United States. Owning a colony doesn’t fit with our claim to be a model of democracy.
Puerto Rico, like the other U.S. territories with large populations of U.S. citizens, Puerto Rico will become a state. The real question is how long residents will suffer under the current territorial model.
Help us get the attention of Congress so Puerto Rico can be admitted as a state:
- Add an overlay to your picture on Facebook to show that you are on the right side of history.
- Use the Sound Off widget on the right side of the page to send a quick and easy message.
- Send an email to your legislators.
Every single one of us can make a difference. We can all move Puerto Rico further along the path to statehood.