Puerto Rico Statehood after the Hurricanes

Statehood for Puerto Rico is clearly a good idea. The 32 territories that have already become states all saw more prosperity and less lawlessness as states than when they were territories. All have enriched the United States in many ways since they became states. Considering the problems and challenges they had, there is no reason to think that Puerto Rico statehood would turn out differently.

Did the 2017 hurricane season change these facts? We’d say no. Governor Ricardo Rossello has said that the United States had a chance to show that Puerto Rico got the same kind of support from the federal government that a state can expect. Puerto Rico clearly did not get the same support that states get. That’s because it is a territory, not a state. Puerto Rico has never gotten the same kind of support states get, because it is not a state.

Did Hurricane Maria make Puerto Rico less qualified for statehood?

Here are the states that have been affected by the top 10 most expensive hurricanes in the United States:

  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • North Carolina
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Vermont
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Arkansas

This list includes nearly half the states in the Union. Experiencing hurricanes — even expensive hurricanes — doesn’t disqualify states.

There will be hurricane seasons in the future. Rebuilding Puerto Rico to be stronger and better able to withstand extreme weather will improve Puerto Rico and save the United States money. This kind of rebuilding will be more likely in a state than in a territory.

Did Hurricane Maria make Puerto Rico less in need of statehood?

Hurricane Maria showed that Puerto Rico needs statehood more than ever.

As a state, Puerto Rico would not be left out of federal programs designed to provide support after disasters.

What are the alternatives to statehood for Puerto Rico?

One possibility is to continue as a territory. We have seen the results of a hurricane on the territory of Puerto Rico. One third of residents face foreclosure on their homes. Roughly half have no electric power. An uncertain number are without potable water. Four months after the hurricane made landfall, Puerto Rico is not back to normal and has not received the needed disaster assistance funding. It doesn’t require imagination to know that being a territory has not benefited Puerto Rico in this calamity.

Another possibility is independence. Puerto Ricans don’t want independence. Would Puerto Rico have fared better after the hurricanes if she had been an independent nation? The independent nation of Dominica had financial losses totaling 226 percent of their 2016 gross domestic product. Crop destruction ranged from 80-100%, fewer than one third of hotel rooms can be occupied, 90% of homes were damaged, only 27% of schools were unaffected, and many resources were entirely lost. Dominica’s future is more uncertain than Puerto Rico’s.

But statehood would put Puerto Rico in a much stronger position. Hurricane Maria increased Puerto Rico’s financial needs and showed that the position territory is a powerless one.

The process of becoming a state will take time. Puerto Rico will be rebuilding during the admission process. Hurricane Maria might be a memory by the time Puerto Rico has the full power and sovereignty of a state. But future hurricanes will be less damaging for a state than for a territory. There is no question of that.

Tell your legislators that you want statehood for Puerto Rico now. The more they know, they more they will support the admission of the 51st state.

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