The Democratic candidates for president recently held their first debate, following debates among the Republican candidates. Lots of topics have come up in these debates, from the U.S. relationship with China to Hillary Clinton’s emails, but one subject has not made an appearance in any of the debates so far: Puerto Rico.
Raul Reyes pointed this out after the Republican debate:
What was notable about this debate was what went unsaid. There was no discussion of the Voting Rights Act on its 50th anniversary. There was no discussion of U.S.-Cuba policy, nor of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. Most glaringly, for all the talk about illegal immigration, there was no discussion about what to do with the 11 million undocumented people who are already here.
It’s good to see recognition that Puerto Rico is a national concern and should be given attention when issues of national concern are discussed. And of course we must all be concerned about the 11 million undocumented individuals. But there are 5.1 million Puerto Ricans on the mainland, and some 3.5 million still on the Island, all citizens of the United States.
Puerto Rico is a territory belonging to the United States, a responsibility of the U.S. Congress under the Territory Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Puerto Rico is currently in a state of financial crisis, expecting to run out of cash soon and facing debt payments it can’t cover. This should be on the presidential candidates’ radar.
To be fair, several candidates have visited Puerto Rico and several have spoken up for statehood. But Puerto Rico, the most likely candidate for the 51st State of the Union, wasn’t considered mainstream enough or important enough to show up in any of the debates so far.
The people of Puerto Rico pay taxes, serve their country in the armed forces, and vote in presidential primaries. Puerto Ricans are now the second largest Hispanic group on the mainland, too, second only to the Mexican population. It’s time to speak up and be heard.
Contact your legislators and let them know that you care about Puerto Rico’s status.