Three Problems with Territory Status

The House Committee on Natural Resources will be considering two bills on Puerto Rico  status. This is not by any means the first time Congress has considered. However, for more than a century now Congress has failed to take action. If this year’s consideration of Puerto Rico’s status ends the way previous discussions have, Puerto Rico will continue to be a territory.

The decisions in the Insular Cases allow Congress to keepPuerto Rico in territory status indefinitely.

What’s wrong with that?

Pedro Pierluisi is currently the Governor of Puerto Rico. The last time Congress held hearings on Puerto Rico’s status, he was resident commissioner. In that role, he spoke to the Committee about the three problems with territory status.

“First, territory status deprives my constituents of political rights.”

As U.S. citizens living in a territory, residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote for their president. They can’t vote for senators, because they have none. They elect one Member of Congress, not the four or five they would have as a state.

That congressional representative can’t vote, except in a symbolic way. “I can only watch as my House col- leagues cast floor votes on bills that affect, for better or for worse, every aspect of life on the island. I must rely on the goodwill of senators like you,” Pierluisi told the senators. “But you were elected to protect the interests of your constituents, not mine—so, understandably, our needs are not always your highest priority. I must request assistance from a president who is not obliged to seek or earn our vote. To expect the administration to feel the same urgency to produce positive results for Puerto Rico as it does for the states is to substitute hope for experience.”

“Territory status gives the federal government a license to discriminate against Puerto Rico.”

This is not a complaint or an accusation — it’s a simple statement of fact. Under the U.S. Constitution, all 50 states are on an equal footing. All must be treated equally, whether they are small states with few people, like Wyoming, or populous states like California and Texas. Puerto Rico can be treated differently, by law.

This allows Congress to make decisions based on a desire to save money, rather than basing their decisions on what would be best for the American citizens of Puerto Rico.

“The territory receives fewer federal funds per resident than any state or the District of Columbia,” Pierluisi pointed out. “In 2010, Puerto Rico received about $5,300 per capita from the federal government, which is half the national average.”

“To illustrate, consider a married couple with two children living in the states that earns $25,000, and then consider an identical family living in Puerto Rico,” Pierluisi continued. “Both families owe the same payroll taxes. But the stateside family would receive over $6,000 in credits under the Earned In- come Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit programs, for a final income of over $30,000. The Puerto Rico family, because it is ineligible for the EITC or the CTC, takes home less than $24,000. This is a useful example to bear in mind the next time you hear someone extol the supposed ‘advantages’ of territory status.”

“Territory status—and the unequal playing field it creates—has harmed Puerto Rico’s economy and, therefore, quality of life on the island.”

Sometimes people arguing against statehood say scornfully that statehood supporters are only thinking about money. In fact, justice and equality are on the minds of statehood supporters. But the economic consequences of being a territory are significant. And the consequences in people’s daily lives of this economic injustice are significant, too. There is nothing inappropriate about pointing it out.

“At no point in time in the last 450 months has a state ever had an unemployment rate as high as Puerto Rico’s,” Pierluisi told the committee. “The data on household income reveal a similar pattern. Indeed, whatever economic metric we use, the numbers tell the same narrative: Puerto Rico has lagged far behind the states for at least four decades, and the gap is only increasing.”

This is still true today, but the length of time it has been going on is longer.

“It is clear that territory status serves as a perpetual economic headwind, slowing or stopping forward progress by the ship of state, regardless of who is at the helm,” said Pierluisi.

HR 1522 moves Puerto Rico on to statehood. HR 2070 delays the process, probably for years. If Congress ignores the responsibility to resolve Puerto Rico’s status question, Puerto Rico will continue to be a territory. This is unacceptable.

Let your congressional reps know that it’s time to take action for Puerto Rico.

One Comment

DENNIS FREYTES-FL VETS HALL OF FAME

**Equal Rights for all US Citizens-US Veterans, now!**
Since, 1898 (for almost 125 years)–fellow, but, 2d Class US Citizens-US Veterans (part of “We the People”), in the US Territory of Puerto Rico (PR) (with more US Citizens than 22 States)– have made many valuable Contributions to our USA… BUT, they are under the undemocratic control of the US Congress; have NO Federal “Consent of the Governed”; are not treated fairly like other US Citizens…

This is first, a Civil Individual Rights issue, because until TODAY, Hispanic-Puerto Ricans have NO Vote for US President; NO just Representation in US Congress; NO Parity in Federal Laws-Programs-Funds; NO permanent statutory US Citizenship (even if residing in a State)… that other US Citizens-American Veterans have, under our US Constitution! The Federal Government can fix this, but, has only provided discriminatory excuses, to not do so, are against part of “We the People” (Puerto Ricans)!

Contributions: Loyal US Puerto Ricans, about 10m strong, (most live in the States)-are the 2d largest US Hispanic Group that sacrifice; greatly contribute (in all fields of endeavor) to our US. Since 1898, Puerto Ricans patriotically shed sweat, blood, and tears for our US Flag (WWI; WW-II; Korea; Vietnam; Global War on Terrorism…). Their Ancestors (1st Governor of PR & Crew) came to Florida (in 1513)–107 years before the Pilgrims; others fought in the US War of Independence (1776)…; help develop our now USA.

Puerto Ricans-US Veterans want EQUAL RIGHTS, like others have! They democratically Voted– in CERTIFIED Local Plebiscites (2012, 2017, & 2020) against the current Territorial Status; Independence (only got 2-5% of the Vote)… The Majority of PR Voted for STATEHOOD; have elected various pro-Statehood Governments; are integrated into US way of Life; cherish US Citizenship…
“The Federal Government should be the Servant of ALL the People; NOT the Master of some!”
The Puerto Rican fight for Fairness-Equal Rights–is not just about the Status Question, but, more fundamental, it’s about the essence, and soul of our noble US Constitution–where ALL “WE THE PEOPLE” should be treated fairly by their Federal Government; and have full Civil Rights (so we can have a “Representative Democracy”)! In our US Constitution, the People (composed of Individuals–with full Rights…)–come FIRST, not the Federal undemocratic control of the People and Land (Territory), as we Guard against a “Tyranny of a Majority”!

Also, Puerto Ricans face a complex MAGNA CRISIS which major ROOT components are–
*Economic-Jobs; Fiscal-Debt; Infrastructure; Social; Status-Equality*
*Where each PART affects the other; the Federal undemocratic Territorial (Colonial) Status affects everything. Federal discrimination brings instability; ties PR hands to fairly compete-grow the Economy.
Silence to discrimination; supports injustice!
Puerto Ricans have voted against remaining a suppressed US Territory! The FEDERAL GOVERNMENT (US Congress, US President, & US Supreme Court) must stop spinning discriminating EXCUSES that generalize, misinform, distort, fools or confuses people; but, solve this unfairness; provide Equality, now!

SOLVE: US Congress must conduct a non-partisan democratic non-Territorial Plebiscite with defined constitutional Options to END Federal discrimination …let the People VOTE-decide!
OPTION 1: US Congress passes–S.780 & HR 1522-PR STATEHOOD (“YES or NO”) Vote.
OPTION 2: Conduct a Federal Plebiscite on the only non-Territorial Options (allowed by US Constitution): Statehood vs Independence-(Without or With a PACT of Free Association).
• STATEHOOD MEANS: Admission to our diverse “UNION of STATES”—with OWN– STATE Identity; Constitution; Flag; Sovereignty; EQUAL/permanent US Citizenship with full rights, benefits, and responsibilities… (As other US Citizens-US Veterans-“WE THE PEOPLE”- have).
• INDEPENDENCE (with or without PACT of Free Association) MEANS: loss of statutory US Citizenship, Rights, and Benefits—like Social Security, MEDICARE, MEDICAID, and Other Federal Funds (Health, Education, Transportation, Roads, Security, Disaster Relief, etc.).
**A Nation can’t be independent or sovereign with the Citizenship of another Nation nor can Congress create a non-constitutional Status, like “ELA (Free Associated State)-Soberano” (which is Independence- with US Citizenship/ benefits) or provide US Citizenship to the Citizens of an Independent Nation…
Best Option: “PR EQUALITY & PROGRESS with STATEHOOD!
In our UNION-each State complements; strengthen the other States—works for the Good of All!
“En la UNIÓN está la Fuerza!”

Besides, statutory US Citizens that reside in the States have an equity interest because they can lose their statutory US Citizenship under Independence (or Free Association)… Thus, the US Congress must state in any Plebiscite– that statutory US Citizens residing in a State will not lose their US Citizenship or let them Vote because the outcome affects them… Statehood guarantees permanent US Citizenship!

Puerto Ricans should not be treated like in Orwell’s’ Animal Farm allegory–“All Animals (People) are Equal; but, some Animals (People) are more Equal than others!” Today, the majority of US Citizens are (wrongly) more equal than US Puerto Ricans-US Veterans…! You can’t have it both ways–you are either for Equal Civil Rights for All… or you excuse or support discrimination against part of “We the People”!
Patriots cry- “Equality for a more perfect UNION!”
Unjust Laws should be overturned! Our evolving US Constitution leaves a lot to right or wrong interpretation, but, it’s clear that the Power should reside with “WE THE PEOPLE” in a Representative Democracy with “Consent of the Governed” for all! Today, there is no Equal Civil Rights for all “We the People”-Puerto Ricans, because:
• US Puerto Ricans are under Federal undemocratic control/ discrimination, per the trite Territorial Clause (1787); and Insular Cases (1901-1925+) that state: Puerto Rico is an “unincorporated” US Territory; more foreign than domestic, belongs to, but, is not part of the US. These discriminatory Terms are based on racism, and are not in the US Constitution, nor were they applied to other US Territories before PR.

How can US Citizens-US Veterans be treated as foreign, per the Insular Cases, under our US Flag? The US Supreme Court-must do its duty: revoke the racist Insular Cases–Downes vs Bidwell (1901) & Balzac vs Porto Rico (1922). Also, The US Congress must Incorporate PR; do a Plebiscite to end oppression.

Later, the Federal Government must amend the US Constitution-with a “Citizen’s Equality-Protection” Clause that doesn’t leave to interpretation that all US Citizens will be treated EQUALLY! Also, amend the old Territorial Clause (1787) to reflect a Status limit of about 20 years; provide for more rights…

The TIME is NOW to educate, advocate, and take Civic ACTION for Fairness-Equal Rights; contact US Congress, & US President! UNITED-With Truth, Reason, Courage, and ACTION for the Good of ALL!

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.