Visitors to our Facebook page have asked, “What about all the other territories that the states own? Why leave them out?”
The short answer
The short answer to the question is that no other current territory has requested statehood.
If you look at the history of the 50 states, you see that most of them began as territories. Once they had a large enough population and an organized government, they requested statehood. Congress sometimes failed to take action, as they have done so far for Puerto Rico. Sometimes they told the territories they would have to change their laws or their borders. Sometimes Congress had bold debates about statehood for a particular territory, insisting that it was not yet time for them to become a state.
Eventually, the territory would be admitted as a state.
Congress has not forced any territory to become a state against their will. So territories which have not asked for statehood will not become states.
The other territories
The permanently inhabited territories of the United States include
- Puerto Rico, population 3,337,177
- The U.S. Virgin Islands, population 104,901
- Guam, population 162,742
- Northern Mariana Islands, population 52,263
- American Samoa, population 51,504
Traditionally, territories needed to have 60,000 people in order to become a state. This number is not in the U.S. Constitution, and some territories have been admitted with smaller populations. (Sometimes because they lied.) However, it would be possible for Congress to say that American Samoa and the Mariana Islands have too few people to become states.
Guam has a statehood movement, but has never formally requested statehood. There have also been discussions about joining Hawaii or banding together with the Northern Mariana Islands. However, there has not yet been a vote on the subject.
The Virgin Islands held a referendum in 1993 and 81% of voters chose to remain a territory.
95% of U.S. citizens living in a territory live in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is far more organized and developed than any previous territory which joined the Union in the 18th, 19th, or 20th centuries. Puerto Rico has also formally requested statehood, and there is a bill in Congress to admit Puerto Rico. Let your Congressperson know that you support statehood for Puerto Rico.