PUERTO RICO, THE 51ST STATE | Puerto Rico 51st

Puerto Rico has been under the U.S. flag since 1898, and Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917. But the Island is still an unincorporated territory. What does this mean?

  • Puerto Rico’s ultimate political status is still uncertain. It could become a state or an independent nation, or it can continue to be a territory indefinitely.
  • The Federal government governs Puerto Rico, even though it has allowed self-government on local matters. The Supreme Court has said that Puerto Rico does not have the “power, dignity and authority”  of a state.
  • It does not have votes in Congress or in the election of the President. One House of Representatives member with a limited vote represents all three million plus U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico.
  • It is treated differently than the states under some laws and is discriminated against in federal funds allocations.

Federal officials have said Puerto Rico should have the status its people want from among all legally possible options. Under the U.S. Constitution, there are only three options:

  • statehood
  • independence
  • the current territorial status

In 2012, 54% of Puerto Ricans said they did not want to be a territory and 61.2% chose statehood. In 2017, 97% of voters chose statehood from the possible options — statehood, independence, and continuing as a territory.  In 2020, more than 52% of voters said “Yes” to statehood.

Some local politicians want a new arrangement with benefits of being a state, a nation, and a territory they call “Enhanced Commonwealth status.” Federal officials say it is impossible.

Congress has the power to take action for statehood now. Only Congress can make a new state. Only statehood will bring full equality for Puerto Rico.

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