We know that Puerto Rico does not have equality with the states. Puerto Rico is officially not covered by the entire U.S. Constitution, does not receive the same financial support as states, and does not have voting representatives in the U.S. Congress or votes in the presidential elections.
Clearly, Puerto Rico is not equal to the states.
It’s about geography
Puerto Ricans who move to the United States mainland immediately have all the rights and responsibilities of their fellow Floridians, New Yorkers, Ohioans, or the residents of any state. And any Floridian, New Yorker, or Ohioan who moves to Puerto Rico immediately loses some of those rights and responsibilities. Puerto Rico, since it is a territory, does not have equality with the states.
As soon as Puerto Rico becomes a state, it will have the rights and privileges of a state, just like the other 50 states. The residents of Puerto Rico will have the same rights and responsibilities that other U.S. citizens now have when they live in states.
Equality without statehood?
But can Puerto Rico be given equal rights while it remains a territory? In theory, Congress could grant Puerto Rico any privileges it chooses. Puerto Rico has in fact been given some of the benefits of states recently. Residents of Puerto Rico are now eligible for the Child Tax Credit just as residents of states are, and there is an effort in Congress to provide SNAP benefits rather than the limited benefits the Island now has.
We’re saying “grant” and “give” because those decisions would be temporary. A future Congress could change them. States have rights, but territories are subject to the whim of Congress.
Right now, Puerto Rico is treated like a state in many ways, but Congress doesn’t have to treat Puerto Rico just as it does the states. If all the current requests are granted, there will be no change in that fact. Puerto Rico used to have access to chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, but that right was taken away. Any special privileges given to Puerto Rico — even privileges that do nothing more than allow Puerto Rico to be treated like a state — can be taken away in the future.
Giving Puerto Rico special privileges just says, “You’re not a state.”
What would change under statehood?
When Puerto Rico is a State, the Island will be entitled to all the benefits of being a State. Until that time, Puerto Rico is not entitled to anything. Congress makes the decisions.
Let Congress know how you feel about Puerto Rico’s status. Ask for Congress to help Puerto Rico in this difficult time.