Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. That means that the United States owns Puerto Rico; it can correctly be called a possession of the United States.
Puerto Rico used to be a colony of Spain. The Island belonged to Spain for more than 400 years. In 1898, as part of a treaty that ended a war between Spain and the United States, Spain ceded (gave) Puerto Rico to the United States.
Since 1917, people born in Puerto Rico have been birthright citizens of the United States. In 1952, Congress ratified the Constitution of Puerto Rico and allowed local self-government similar to that of states, but with limitations. Puerto Rico, as the Supreme Court said in 2016, does not have the sovereignty of a state.
In the case of Puerto Rico vs. Sanchez Valle, the Supreme Court determined that “the States are separate sovereigns from the Federal Government (and from one another).” Puerto Rico, as a territory, is not on “equal footing” with the States, and does not share in their “power, dignity and authority.”
So for 123 years, Puerto Rico has been a possession of the United States, not a state. Without sovereignty, without senators or voting representatives in Congress, without the ability to vote in presidential elections, Puerto Rico has been in an unequal, powerless position.
The residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. People born in Puerto Rico can move to a state and have the full rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship just like people born in states. As long as we live in Puerto Rico, however, the U.S. Constitution does not offer the same protection as it does to other citizens.
The United States cannot deny equal rights to three million citizens and still claim to be a representative of democracy and justice. Let’s make 2022 the year to right this wrong. Tell your congressional reps that you want to see them on the right side of history.
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