The States

“Oh, what was your name in the States?” asked a popular song during the Civil War. “Was it Thompson, or Johnson, or Bates? Did you murder your wife and fly for your life? Say, what was your name in the States?”

The song referred to the fact that people could leave the civilized States in the 1800s and run off to the less civilized territories such as the Nebraska Territory or the Utah Territory. A change of name and — with no Internet to track him — a man could start a new life.

Territories in those days were wild places with small populations and limited governments. They were very different from the States. 32 territories went through the process of gaining population and developing laws, governments, and constitutions so that they could be admitted as states.

Puerto Rico, with millions of residents, a government much like those of the States, and a constitution ratified over 60 years ago, is not the Wild West. Neither is it a State. Does it really matter?

The quote at the top of this page, from Citizens Without a State, a new book by Howard Hills, explains why it matters.

“A person in a U.S. territory with national citizenship, but not state citizenship is denied the most fundamental rights in the domestic community of states.” — Howard Hills
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The right to vote for the president and Commander in Chief, the right to full representation in the House and Senate where laws are made, the right to receive equal treatment when it comes to federal funds, and even the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution — all these things come with residence in a state, not with U.S. citizenship.

This is often shocking to Americans when they first hear about it. It’s hard to believe, and many think laws should be changed so this inequality will be ended. But this is the reality of statehood. Congress could make laws changing the position of Puerto Rico and the other territories, but a future Congress could simply change those laws.

Statehood is the only solution. Puerto Rico has already voted for statehood, and funds have already been provided for a final, federally sponsored referendum to confirm that vote. Let your congressperson know that that you want to see statehood for Puerto Rico.

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