Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. What does that mean?
Under the U.S. Constitution, there are two possible relationships a piece of land belonging to the U.S. can have with the U.S.:
- It can be a state.
- It can be a territory.
Usually, a territory is a piece of land waiting to become a state, but without decisive action a territory can remain a territory indefinitely. That’s what has happened to Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico have been citizens of the United States since 1917, but they still can’t vote in presidential elections, they have just one non-voting representative in Congress, and they are not treated equally when it comes to the benefits of citizenship as long as they live in Puerto Rico.
The people of Puerto Rico are second-class citizens.
Puerto Rico has held six plebiscites. Three were held in the 20th century. At the time, it was widely believed in Puerto Rico that another relationship, sometimes called “enhanced commonwealth,” was possible. Every branch of the federal government has by now stated clearly that there are no further options under the U.S. Constitution. Puerto Rico can become independent, but as long as it belongs to the United States, it must be either a territory or a state.
In the 21st century, three more plebiscites have taken place. The mythical enhanced commonwealth was not on these ballots. In each one, statehood was the clear winner.
- In 2012, the voters of Puerto Rico said that they did not want to be a territory any more. 54% voted against continuing as a territory. Statehood got 61% of the votes for the new status. However, this was a non-binding referendum and Congress took no action.
- In 2017, 97% of voters chose statehood. Again Congress took no action.
- In 2020, 53% of voters said “Yes” to statehood. Two bills on Puerto Rico status were introduced in Congress. A third bill, a compromise alternative, was introduced in 2022. These bills are still in committee.
It is clear that the current territorial status is unjust and an infringement on the civil rights of the 3.2 million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico. It is equally clear that statehood is the preferred status of the majority of voters in Puerto Rico.
We are certain that Puerto Rico will be the 51st state. We do not know when Puerto Rico will be admitted. Please contact your congressional representatives and let them know that you want them to support statehood for Puerto Rico.