Regular commenter AA AA left a long and thoughtful comment which said, among other things, “Puerto Rico Statehood must happen now because it is the responsibility of every USA congressional member to honor their Oath of Office – to support and defend our USA constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic.”
This is a thought-provoking comment.
The Declaration of Independence, the document that started the new nation of The United States in 1776, says that one of the truths the authors considered self-evident or obviously true is that “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Does Puerto Rico consent to government as a territory?
In 2012, Puerto Rico voters were asked if Puerto Rico should retain its current status, 53.97%
answered “no”; 46.03% answered “yes.” In other words, the majority of voters rejected continuing as a territory.
Rep. Raul Grijalva has taken the position that the Department of Justice is being “disingenuous” when it insists that the current territory status has to be included in any future decisions about the political status of Puerto Rico. He points out, correctly, that Puerto Rico specifically rejected continuing to be governed as a territory of the United States.
The second question in 2012 asked, regardless of the answer to the first question, which of the viable status options voters would choose. The viable status options, then as now, include continuing as a territory (already rejected), statehood, and independence. A majority chose statehood.
In referenda in 2017 and 2020, the majority of voters again chose statehood. There is no reason to think that Puerto Rico accepts the status of an unincorporated territory and is happy to be governed as a possession of the United States.
Puerto Rico wants the full rights and responsibilities of a state. The voters have said so repeatedly, and the elected leaders of the territory have formally requested statehood. This is a question of fact.
Defending the Constitution
Congress must take the next step. Puerto Rico has voted for statehood and asked for statehood, but a territory cannot declare itself a state. Congress is given the power to admit states by the U.S. Constitution.
But Congress also has the duty to uphold and defend the Constitution.
This is the part of the Constitution that says that:
“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.”
— U.S. Constitution, Article VI, clause 3
Can Congress continue to govern without consent of the governed?
It seems that Congress doesn’t really have that option. The Declaration of Independence is inseparable from the Constitution, since it states the basic tenets of the United States. It is the foundation of the Constitution.
Senators and Members of Congress have a duty to uphold and defend the Constitution, and that should include this very basic proposition: that just government relies on the consent of the governed.
Do your legislators need a reminder? We offer a simple form you can use to contact your reps, even if you don’t know their names.