A recent comment from Marta Echevarria-Wild at PR51st included this point:

“I think that I am the prototype of the majority of Puerto Ricans that reside in the mainland, and I have voted for both Republican and Democratic presidents for the last 32 years.  Besides the political and financial stability, I have very selfish reasons to want Puerto Rico to become a state. I have made a life in the mainland but maintain very close ties with the island. I want my children and grandchildren to continue that close relationship and becoming a state will facilitate that while independence will be an obstacle. I should be able to vote in the upcoming referendum this year. The outcome might put me in the position of having to choose between a ‘constitutional’ USA citizenship vs. a Puerto Rican one, so I should have a say on it.”

Marta is not the only one who thinks that Puerto Ricans living in the states should have a say. There are now more people of Puerto Rican heritage living in the States than on the Island. People in Puerto Rico and in the States will be affected by any change in Puerto Rico’s status.

Who got to vote?

Only voters in Puerto Rico were able to vote in the 2020 referendum. That doesn’t mean that people living in the States have no say.

As we have seen before, a plebiscite does not lead to a change in status unless Congress takes action. With no voting members, Puerto Rico has less influence over Congress than any of the 50 States.

Puerto Rico is represented in Congress by a Resident Commissioner. At present, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon is in this position. Rep. Gonzalez-Colon can introduce legislation and vote in committees, but her vote in the House is strictly symbolic. If her vote makes a difference in the outcome, it is not counted.

Some members of Congress, including Nydia Velazquez of New York and Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, have fought in the past to allow Puerto Ricans living in the states to vote on the status of Puerto Rico.

Problems with including the diaspora

HR 1522, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Bill, includes a measure allowing the voters of Puerto Rico to vote to ratify an invitation to statehood from Congress. HR 2070, the so-called “self-determination bill,” calls for a status convention. The CUNY Center for Puerto Rican Studies has recently received a grant to study decolonization of Puerto Rico, and one topic they plan to discuss is whether the diaspora — people from Puerto Rico living in the United States — should be allowed to take part in a status convention or a vote on status.

Marta makes a good point. She could be affected by a decision on status. However, states have sovereignty which territories do not. Ohio does not get to make decisions for Maine, any more than Algeria gets to make decisions for the United States.

The United States owns Puerto Rico and the federal government gets to make decisions for the territory. Should states get to prevent Puerto Rico from gaining sovereignty as a state? There are more Puerto Ricans living in the states than on the Island. They can outnumber the residents of Puerto Rico, who will be most strongly affected by any status decision.

There is also the question of who among the nearly 6,000 Puerto Ricans should be consulted. Would it be fair to include only people born in Puerto Rico? Then should residents of Puerto Rico who were not born there be able to vote?

If the children or grandchildren of people who moved from Puerto Rico to a state get to vote on Puerto Rico’s status, we would have a case in which voting is limited to people of a particular ethnic heritage, which would go against the 14th amendment.

Either way, we would be setting a precedent. People born in Colorado and living in Alaska are not allowed to vote on laws for Colorado…but how could they be refused this privilege if it were allowed for Puerto Rico?

Use your influence

Just as the majority of Puerto Rico’s voters favor statehood, the majority of Americans in the states favor statehood. The decision on Puerto Rico’s status has been made, and continued discussion may delay the process but is not likely to change the outcome.

If you live in a State, you have influence over Congress. Marta, you have influence over Congress. Research has shown that as few as 30 tweets to a congressperson can change that person’s mind about which issues are important.

Votes are important, of course. They are the way we make decisions in a democracy. But people can speak out and make a difference in other ways. Don’t miss your chance!



7 Responses

  1. I believe that every Puerto Rican should have a chance to vote weather or not he lives in the Island. The reason we have left our Island is because of the bad politicians that have governed this precious territory. First mistake was to stay as an (Estado libre Associado) for so long. Second mistake was to remove the U.S. military from Roosevelt Roads and Vieques. That part of the Island is dead, no jobs, no tourism and no agriculture, because the politicians let it happen. Times change and we need to move with it. We need someone that can understand what the Island is capable of in terms of the goods that we can produce and the needs of the people. Not someone that will pocket the money and then run away. It is time to become a state and put in place certain checks and balances to control the corruption, and move forward.

    • Beg to differ, it’s a basic principle of democracy that only those who will be personally and directly affected by the results of an election WHERE THEY LIVE have a valid legal and moral right to cast a vote in such an election and only those of us who reside in Puerto Rico will be affected in tangible, concrete ways, in our governance, our property and our civil rights, by the results of any and all elections in Puerto Rico, be it in electing local government officials or in deciding the Island’s political status. In that regard, to be “Puerto Rican” means “to be a resident of Puerto Rico”, not “of Puerto Rican ethnicity”. Those ethnic Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida, New York or Illinois can cast votes in the states and cities where they reside but not in Puerto Rico, unless they reestablish their legal residence in Puerto Rico.

  2. “Living there” as in you participate in the economy FULLY, not as a temporary resident. That’s what I meant.

  3. Most born in Puerto Rico have a statutory non-permanent US Citizenship no matter where they reside, per Presidential and GAO Reports; US Justice Department, Federal Court standing decisions…Former US Attorney General; Under Secretary General of the United Nations Dick Thornburgh, in his book (Puerto Rico’s Future-a time to decide-2007) states: “Four million U.S. citizens live under the U.S. flag in Puerto Rico, yet they can neither vote for president nor have voting representation in Congress, which enacts the federal laws under which they live. Residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories are deprived of basic rights of self-determination that U.S. citizens generally enjoy and that the United States has committed itself to achieving for peoples around the globe.”
    • “Political gridlock in Congress and in Puerto Rico has stymied efforts to put Puerto Rico on a path toward a permanent political status that ensures full self-government for its residents. If Congress does not act soon, U.S. courts may be asked to give more serious consideration to whether the residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories have political and human rights under U.S. and international law that can no longer be ignored by the political branches of government.”
    • Besides, Thornburgh states: “The ruling of the Supreme Court in Rogers v. Bellei 401 U.S. 815 (1970), regarding the nature of statutory citizenship is consistent with the conclusion that even a statutory extension of the Fourteenth Amendment to Puerto Rico could not limit the discretion of Congress to amend or repeal that statutory extension.”
    • “Thus, the U.S. citizenship created under 8 U.S.C. §1402 does not and cannot offer the permanent or constitutional protection of the Fourteenth Amendment to the people of Puerto Rico. Similarly, the protection of persons born in a State of the Union under Afroyim v. Rusk 307 U.S. 253 (1967) would not prevent Congress from changing laws defining the citizenship of people born in Puerto Rico.”
    President W. Bush US Justice Department: “If P.R. were to become independent “… those…who had U.S. Citizenship only by statute would cease to be citizens of the United States, unless a different rule were prescribed by legislation or treaty…” (Page 9)
    President Obama’s US Justice Department: “In a case concerning American Samoa, the Justice Department explained that 14th Amendment citizenship does not apply in a territory that has not “been incorporated into the United States as a part thereof” but “is simply held . . . under the sovereignty of the United States as a possession or dependency,” using the words of the U.S. Supreme Court. (It identified Puerto Rico as another unincorporated territory).”

  4. The problem is not becoming a state, the problem is that you’re bringing the same problems with the statehood because you (writer as people in the island) hasn’t learn anything. Six out of seven governors are associated with the democrats, including the current governor. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

    Diaspora? You’re calling your own country a strange land. You’re (writer/ people in the island) mentality it’s the problem to begin with. You haven’t embrace the USA as your own country. PPD and PIP are bad, but PNP are as worst as they are.

  5. Only Statehood guarantees a permanent statutory US Citizenship as the US Constitution/Laws end upon Independence. Statutory US Citizens (by Territorial Clause/Jones Act-1917), in the STATES, have a Stake in this just Fight– as they can lose their non-permanent statutory US Citizenship! THUS, the US Congress must let them Vote in any Plebiscite or naturalize those in the States (per 14th Amendment).

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