Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, but is treated like a foreign country in some cases. There’s history behind that, but the effect is discriminatory.
Puerto Rico’s treatment as foreign primarily stems from its status as a non-state entity. Under the U.S. Constitution’s territorial clause, Congress exercises authority over Puerto Rico’s governance, including its external affairs. Consequently, the island is considered foreign in some legal situations.
Despite its residents being U.S. citizens, for example, they are ineligible to vote in presidential elections unless they relocate to one of the 50 states. Similarly, Puerto Rico’s representation in Congress is limited to a non-voting resident commissioner. This lack of political representation results in the island being treated as a foreign entity in matters of national policy, making it challenging for Puerto Ricans to advocate for their interests and secure federal funding on equal terms with the states.
Puerto Rico is also treated as domestic under certain circumstances. The island’s economic relationship with the United States is governed by federal laws, such as the Jones Act, which mandates that only U.S.-built, U.S.-flagged vessels can transport goods between Puerto Rico and the mainland.
While its exclusion from political representation and trade barriers showcase its foreign classification, its economic integration, shared currency, military service, and eligibility for disaster assistance underscore its domestic ties. This duality necessitates a comprehensive examination of Puerto Rico’s status and calls for a change in the island’s future relationship with the United States.
Join us in calling for a permanent, non-territorial status for Puerto Rico.