What is the future of Puerto Rico? There are so many possibilities that we can’t answer this. Headlines say that Puerto Rico is losing its insect population, that the economy will never recover, and that Puerto Rico will be the Singapore of the Caribbean.
When it comes to status, though, the situation is simple:
- Puerto Rico will become a state. The voting has been done, the official request has been made, and now it’s up to Congress. As of this writing, there are 57 cosponsors. If your legislator isn’t on the list yet, they need to hear from you!
- Puerto Rico could continue as a colony for some additional period of time. It may look hypocritical for the United States to call itself a champion of democracy and also to own a colony, but Congress has a lot going on. They need to believe that their constituents care before they will care.
- In theory, Puerto Rico could still become an independent nation or Congress could give the Island to China, but these are not at all likely outcomes.
Basically, Puerto Rico is currently a territory and it will eventually become a state, just like all the other territories that have requested statehood in the past.
How long will statehood take?
Congress must vote on the admission of Puerto Rico as a state. Congress has voted no on territories’ admissions bills before — sometimes many times before a yes vote finally took place.
Presidents have refused to sign admissions bills, too. Andrew Johnson refused to sign the admission bill for Colorado, for example, because Colorado at the time had laws involving racial discrimination, and a population too small for statehood.
The territories which did not get presidential approval the first time around either made changes or waited for the next president to sign. No territory has yet been permanently refused statehood after making a formal request.
Achieving statehood can take a long time. Since it is up to Congress, the way to speed up the process is to educate and persuade Congress on the subject. Vote for statehood supporters in the midterm elections, and ask your congressperson to support HR 4901, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act.