What International Message Would Statehood Send?

The benefits of statehood for Puerto Rico and for the United States are clear.

With a level playing field, Puerto Rico would be able to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria and to step out on a road to prosperity. That prosperity, as we have seen again and again in territories that have become states, would make Puerto Rico a more valuable source of income for the United States as a whole.

Reductions in crime, better control of drug trafficking from Latin America through Puerto Rico to the states, and enrichment of U.S. culture in general would also benefit the U.S., including Puerto Rico.

But there is another benefit that people are beginning to discuss. Admitting Puerto Rico as a state would make a strong statement about the United States to the watching world.

Is the U.S. swinging toward racism and away from democracy?

International reporting on the United States currently tends to present a nation that is no longer a model of democracy and equality. The Economist Intelligence Unit removed the U.S. from its list of “full democracies” in 2017, an Ivy League research project identified cracks in the U.S. democratic norms, and U.S. diplomats around the globe have been rebuked for racist remarks in the government.

The United States is a nation built on ideals. One of those ideals is free speech. Here at PR51st, we allow comments we find repugnant, because we believe in free speech. We don’t publish comments that attack individuals or include obscenities, but we never censor comments just because we don’t agree with them.

The love of freedom and equality in the United States allows talk that makes the U.S. look less democratic and less egalitarian than we would look if we worked to control people’s speech.

Actions speak louder than words.

Admitting Puerto Rico, a territory with a diverse population, will be a bold, morally strong action that will counter this negative impression.

Former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo, a member of the Puerto Rico Statehood Commission, made this point recently in front of Congress. If your representatives need to be reminded, you are the right person to do this. Contact your legislators now.

howard hills

It is true that statehood for Puerto Rico will remind the world that the U.S. model of constitutional democracy and anti-colonial self-determination is the gold standard for equality and liberty among all nations. It also is true that U.S. territorial law and policy in Puerto Rico was made ambiguous by an imperialistic court ruling in 1922, and deviated from our great national anti-colonial traditions.

A great deal has gone wrong in the status resolution process for territories acquired in the modern era and originally populated by non-citizens. But that only makes the challenge of self-determination for the U.S. citizens and nationals now populating those territories more imperative to redeem the promise of America. The fact that the world expects America to keep its promise of democracy even after it has deferred the dream for so long only affirms that the world counts on America to do what is just, in the end even if not at first. It is reported that Winston Churchill once reflected that the world can count on Americans to do what is right…after they have tried everything else first!

That said, we should reject the notion that the U.S. should admit Puerto Rico as a state to affirm its national character in the eyes of other nations. Rather, Puerto Rico should become a state because no other U.S. citizen populated territory that has petitioned Congress for statehood has been denied a path to eventual admission to the union. There is no rational basis for the U.S. to grant U.S. citizenship at birth in Puerto Rico for 100 years and close the door on statehood. It is too late for that, and it is worth noting that several of the 32 U.S. territories that became states were worse off than Puerto Rico economically prior to admission.

The recent hurricane damage provides no excuses to deny statehood, even if the transition from today’s crisis conditions to full participation in the U.S. economy as a state may be delayed by the hurricane aftermath. To jumpstart the recovery and investment that will drive a higher level of development than before the hurricanes, the U.S. Congress should announce now that Puerto Rico will be admitted in the future when determined ready by Congress, subject to ratification of the 2012 and 2017 majority votes for statehood in a future vote once Congress defines the terms for admission.

Instead of suggesting the U.S. needs to extend the U.S. Constitution to 3.5 million in Puerto Rico to satisfy the international community, the rest of the world should recognize that the U.S. has long been prepared to grant independence to Puerto Rico if chosen by a majority of its people. That satisfies the U.N. standard for self-determination, and any U.S. assurances beyond that are a matter of domestic law and sovereignty, so the rest of the world can mind its own business and let each nation try to be as democratic in the U.S. in its internal self-determination process.

In addition, the main reason Puerto Rico has not become a state or a nation is that the local autonomy party that wants to make permanent the current less than equal citizenship in a less than fully democratic territorial status. The local anti-statehood and also anti-independence party has prevented a fair and informed vote of the real status options of nationhood or statehood for 65 years. The pro-statehood votes in 2012 and 2017 ended that charade.

If Puerto Rico wants nationhood or statehood the terms for transition to either will be defined by Congress, unless Puerto Rico makes and the world accepts a unilateral declaration of independence. Otherwise, having agreed to cessation of reporting to the U.N. on Puerto Rico’s status in 1953, the world community in that body has abdicated its oversight role.

As a consequence, how the U.S. resolves the status of Puerto Rico is really not an international question, except to the extent the U.S. may be in violation of international conventions to which it has ascribed. However, such conventions calling for universal suffrage at the national level are generally not self-executing, so the remedies for denial of full democracy in U.S. territories so far remains a domestic question. All the world needs to know is that the status of Puerto Rico will be resolved in a more deliberate and democratic way than the status of less than fully democratic subdivisions of China, Russia, Spain, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Ukraine, and dozens of other countries in the human rights hall of shame.

That said, it also is readily apparent to anyone with objective powers of judgment that the United States is the least racist nation in the world. Our statutory and court made civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination based on racial hatred and our open debate over race issues in our society is a free and democratic narrative unrivaled by any nation on earth. The on-going struggle for race justice in the U.S. is waged out in the open for the world to see. Americans are proud not ashamed that the work of making our union of states more perfect goes on, unlike most nations where the alienation of races is fixed and intractable.

It was a white majority that elected our first black President. When Mexico or New Zealand or Norway or Japan or Brazil elects a black President come talk to me about anti-black racism in America. Let Australia elect an aborigine, Venezuela elect a Euro-American, Germany or France a national of African descent.

The idea that a decision by the U.S. to enforce its immigration laws is racist is itself racist hate speech against the United States. The U.S. has no apologies to make to any nation in the world for restoring rule of law at our borders. The federal immigration laws that are referred to as “broken” just so happen to allow more immigrants to lawfully become permanent residents and attain U.S. national citizenship each year than the number of immigrants accepted annually BY ALL THE OTHER NATIONS OF THE WORLD COMBINED!

When we use the word “immigrant” it properly refers only to non-citizens who migrate in compliance with U.S. law. Border violators whose relationship with the U.S. begins by violating our laws are unlawful migrants.

Did you know that no other developed nation allows the children of unlawful migrants to acquire birthright citizenship? The U.S. denies birthright citizenship to some children born in the U.S. and constitutionally could expand its current exclusionary regulations into the more general population of children born to parents who are present in the U.S. without permission under the federal immigration laws to which the people have consented.

Instead, the general practice in the U.S. is to allow U.S. born children of aliens present in the U.S. to acquire citizenship under the “law of the soil” customs, even though Congress could further restrict that policy if it so chooses. Each year the U.S. generously and compassionately chooses to allow over 400,000 children born to border violators to become U.S. citizens at birth. In addition, unlike other developed nations the U.S. is close to extending U.S. citizenship to children brought here unlawfully as minors.

The sources cited in this post regarding a survey of political scientists on the efficacy of U.S. democracy, and another cited report on diplomatic “rebuke” of the U.S. due to President Trump’s call for border enforcement, are utterly without merit. One need not be a supporter of President Trump to recognize that the criteria for the Ivy League” survey are not listed to standards for political process based in the U.S. Constitution, but rather include criteria which are without legal basis and represent one-sided ideological opinion.

For example, the idea that leaders should rely on popular consensus or that the majority must restrain itself in a democracy is at odds with the ordered scheme of liberty under our Constitution. Indeed, these theories of eroding democracy in America ignore the fact that our republic’s system for consent of the governed is the model not only for all nations, but was adopted by the United Nations as the model of democratization and self-determination by consent of the governed in its charter.

The idea that democratic governments are accountable to popular opinion and the results of polling or opinion expressing subjective sentiments of the masses is itself anti-democratic. That is not how the rights on the minority are protected or the limits on the power of the majority are regulated under our nation’s constitutional process. Rather, it is the disciplines of the representative process in the Congress and the Electoral College that defend our ordered scheme of liberty. The idea that the opinions of political scientists about what government should do can rise to the level of what the people do through their ordered scheme of liberty is absurd.

Similarly, it is not racist to suggest that the U.S. should join every other developed nation in enforcement of immigration laws to stop unlawful migration by anyone from any nation who can reach and breach our borders. Since China, Mexico, Indonesia, Argentina, Egypt, Japan, India, Brazil and virtually all other nations do not allow open borders, it is racist hate speech to suggest the U.S. is racist for doing what most or all other countries also do without being falsely accused of racist motives or purposes.

No one should or for that matter needs to defend the often ill-chosen words of President Trump, but his proposal that the U.S. should have a merit based immigration system like many other developed nations and dozens of poor nations is not inherently racist. His derogatory statement about open unregulated migration from countries people flee due to poverty and despair made no reference to the racial demographics of those nations. He was referring to socio-economic conditions. The nexus between the offensive term “shit-hole nations” and race was made by others, and imputed to Trump. Interestingly, it is reported the President of Uganda agreed with Trump and applauded his candor, also admonishing his people and people in other poor countries to stay home and fix what is wrong in their nations, instead of running away to the U.S. and trying to live there without any allegiance to America.

The U.S. has done more to promote green technology and reduce carbon emissions than any other nation, allows more immigration than any other nation, has done more to ensure racial equality than any nation in history, gives more food to poor nations than any nation, and sacrifices more for freedom of foreign people in foreign lands than any nation. Yet, nations that do less disparage the U.S. for not doing more.

We don’t need the world to tell us how to resolve the status of Puerto Rico. We will do it in a way that redeems our values and again sets and example to the rest of the world. The idea that we should do so to avoid being shamed by the world for the imperfect policies of the U.S. in Puerto Rico is without any predicate in facts, law or truth. Although imperfectly, we will keep the promise of America in Puerto Rico because we are the United States, and if we fail to do so our sense of shame will come from our own people, not from people in other nations even more imperfect than the USA.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.