Supreme Court Says Puerto Rico Has No Power

Lyle Denniston, writing at the Supreme Court’s blog, made a very clear statement about the recent Supreme Court decisions about Puerto Rico: “It is now clear, in the wake of the Court’s actions in these cases, that the only way for Puerto Rico to gain equal stature within the U.S. governmental structure is to seek statehood.”

The cases he’s talking about include the Sanchez Valle case, which says that Puerto Rico has no separate sovereignty to prosecute crimes. Read more about this case:

The other case is a new decision saying that Puerto Rico can’t make bankruptcy laws, even though it has been left out of the U.S. bankruptcy code.

Both cases said that Puerto Rico, since it is a territory of the United States and covered by the Territorial Clause, has no political power of its own. The government of Puerto Rico of course has power over local issues, but it is only the power Congress has delegated.

In one of the hearings on Puerto Rico, the head of Puerto Rico’s independence party laughed, “A U.S. Congressman from Puerto Rico would have more power than the President of Puerto Rico.” This may or may not be true, but it is certainly true that Congress has much more power than the Governor of Puerto Rico.

The new decisions about Puerto Rico don’t change anything. The idea of a special relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States in which Puerto Rico has some of the powers of an independent nation and some of the powers of a state — this has been a hoax from the beginning. Some people say that the hoax was perpetrated by the United States, and the current governor of Puerto Rico plans to go to the United Nations and complain that Puerto Rico was duped into believing that the Island was “not just a territory.”

The United States said when it allowed Puerto Rico to create a constitution and call itself a commonwealth in the 1950s, that this did not change the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. All three branches of the federal government have continued to say this, over and over, in the decades since then. Politicians in Puerto Rico who say otherwise may be fooling themselves, but they are certainly fooling their followers.

The Supreme Court has said it again, so clearly that it can’t be missed:

“The only way for Puerto Rico to gain equal stature within the U.S. governmental structure is to seek statehood.”
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Tell your congressional representatives that you want statehood for Puerto Rico. Use the Take Action widget on the right, or tweet directly to your congressperson. Send an email or make a phone call. It’s time for Puerto Rico to have the power of a state.

Photo credit: Lee Cannon via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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