What will statehood mean for Puerto Rico?
What will be different when Puerto Rico is a state??
A territory is different from a state. As a territory, Puerto Rico is under the plenary, or complete, power of Congress. Congress took away Puerto Rico’s power to declare bankruptcy, required changes in the Puerto Rico Constitution, and put a fiscal control board in place to supervise decisions about the economy. Congress can do these things because Puerto Rico is a territory. As a state, Puerto Rico will have all the rights of a state.
Congress and federal courts will lose the power to change Puerto Rico’s constitution. Federal and state laws and taxation will apply by the consent of the governed. The U.S. Constitution will apply fully to Puerto Rico, and the residents of Puerto Rico will have the full protection of the Constitution.
Puerto Rico will be on an equal footing with all the other states. In the legislature, states have representatives based on their population. Since Puerto Rico is equal to or larger than 21 states, the Island will gain political power equal to or greater than 21 states.
In addition, statehood will mean a permanent status and an end to the status debate. Congress could in theory give the territory of Puerto Rico away or force independence on the territory. As a state, Puerto Rico will have the certainty and stability of statehood, making it a more appealing business opportunity.
As a state, Puerto Rico will have full representation in the legislature. As a territory, Puerto Rico does not have even one voting member in Congress. Votes on laws that affect Puerto Rico are made by representatives of the 50 states. Naturally, they put their own states first when they make decisions. Without senators and congresspeople, Puerto Rico just doesn’t have the voice a state has.
Puerto Rico currently has no votes for the president. States vote in presidential elections through the Electoral Collage. Puerto Rico, as a territory, is not represented in the Electoral College. Does the President of the United States listen to people who cannot vote as much as to voters?
As a state, Puerto Rico will have local and federal taxation with full and equal representation.
Puerto Rico will have equal funding in all Federal programs and services when it becomes a state. Now, it is legal to treat Puerto Rico differently from the states. Puerto Rico pays Social Security taxes, but doesn’t receive equal funding from Social Security.
As a state, Puerto Rico will have equal rights, privileges, and benefits under all federal programs and services. This includes Federal tax payments to low-income individuals. Puerto Rico will have equal representation in the U.S. House, which will mean that the Island will have as many congressmen and women as states with the same population. Puerto Rico will also have two U.S. senators. The Island will also have votes in the election of the President. This has been discussed above under “Representation,” but it’s important enough to repeat. For the first time in history, Puerto Rico will have an equal voice in American democracy.
The U.S. flag will have 51 stars. Puerto Rico will have its own state flag, a state song, and other symbols of identity.
What will stay the same?
Everyone born or naturalized in Puerto Rico will be a United States citizen.
Puerto Rico will have its own unique culture, as all states do. Louisiana, Texas, Hawaii — they have their special foods, music, and other beloved aspects of their heritage. Every state is special, uniquely enriched by its history and the variety of people who have called it home. Puerto Rico will not lose cultural identity.
English and Spanish will be spoken in Puerto Rico just as they are now. The United States has more than 52 million Spanish speakers — more than Spain, more than Argentina. Puerto Rico will have fewer Spanish speakers than California or Texas.
Puerto Rico will use U.S. currency and U.S. passports. The Island will continue to be included in the U.S. weather system and the postal service. An independent nation of Puerto Rico would have to figure out these systems, but Puerto Rico as a state will continue to be part of the United States and all its systems.
Puerto Rico will elect the governor and legislature. Puerto Rico will keep its constitution and make its own state laws. These things will not change.
The bottom line
The changes for Puerto Rico will be positive. They depend on Congress. Congress will have to vote to admit Puerto Rico as a state. Tell your legislators that you want to see equality for Puerto Rico through statehood.