Truth Empowers People
Real professional journalists do not knowingly disempower people with false narratives. Instead of trying to be political manipulators triangulating opposing factions with what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both called “fake news” in 2016, the press needs to restrain ideology and give people facts and the truth to inform democracy.
Recent press reports in Puerto Rico which appeared in El Nuevo Dia and Caribbean Business misled readers about similarities and differences between the Puerto Rico statehood movement and the idea that Washington DC should be a state.
Given repeated misinformation, it bears repeating that Puerto Rico is a territory organized under federal territorial law enacted under Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution. As a political and civil society under U.S. sovereign rule with a constitution ratified by the U.S. Congress, the next step for Puerto Rico on the road to full democracy is statehood or nationhood.
In contrast, Washington DC is a federal reservation formed around the seat of the federal government. It is a federal district established by act of Congress under Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution.
DC was formed and is still governed under laws passed by Congress, on lands astride the Potomac ceded for that purpose by Virginia and Maryland.
U.S. citizens in the Virginia half of Washington DC came to oppose cession and federal district status because it disenfranchised DC residents and denied government by consent. When Congress was petitioned for relief by residents of lands ceded by Virginia there was an easy solution other than statehood for that half of Washington DC.
Instead of admitting a new state, lands ceded by Virginia were ceded back to Virginia. Restoration of Virginia state citizenship in the area ceded back to Virginia also restored full rights of government by consent, i.e. federal voting rights allocated by Article I and Article II of the U.S. Constitution only to citizens of states.
If the people in the Virginia side of DC had wanted separate statehood, then agreement from both Congress and the Virginia state legislature would have been necessary, politically if not legally. After all, the land was ceded only for use as seat of federal government. Once ceded back to Virginia, statehood would require state approval to make it a state, as required by Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution.
So the only actual precedent on political status change for all or part of the lands in Washington DC ceded by Maryland is the Virginia retrocession. If the citizens in that part of Washington DC ceded by Maryland before and since the 1846 Virginia retrocession want statehood, it no doubt will be argued that the land should be ceded back to Maryland. Then the state legislature’s agreement would have to be secured as part of the statehood admission process.
It should be noted that the smallest state of the union (RI) is over 1,500 square miles. Washington DC is 68 square miles, and only small, mostly rural Vermont and Wyoming have smaller populations. Puerto Rico is over 3,500 square miles, and it has a population of 3.4 million, larger than 20 states.
Other Territories Overcame Far Greater Obstacles
The idea that Puerto Rico can or will be denied statehood for the same reasons DC may be denied statehood has no objective or valid premise. It is political speculation. The same is true of the historically incorrect argument that Puerto Rico can’t be a state in the future because of the current public finance crisis under the “commonwealth” regime of territorial government. This is just more false narrative in the press.
No U.S. territory populated by U.S. citizens that has petitioned for statehood has been denied admission. Economically underdeveloped territories were admitted as states when the U.S. was at war with major foreign powers threatening future existence of our nation. Territories that rejected statehood by majority vote were later admitted by petition without majority vote.
Territories that threatened independence if not granted statehood were admitted, as were states that mobilized militias over border disputes with Congress and neighboring states. Territories that joined in rebellion, fought with the confederacy and had to be occupied by the Union Army were admitted as states.
The story of how territories become states, and secured full rights of U.S. national citizenship that come only with citizenship of a state, are explained in detail in the book Citizens Without A State.
Get it, read it, and let your Congressman know you want Puerto Rico to become a state or a nation based on self-determination, and end the current federal subsidized “commonwealth” regime that has failed for Puerto Rico and the whole nation.