The benefits of statehood for Puerto Rico and for the United States are clear.
With a level playing field, Puerto Rico would be able to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria and to step out on a road to prosperity. That prosperity, as we have seen again and again in territories that have become states, would make Puerto Rico a more valuable source of income for the United States as a whole.
Reductions in crime, better control of drug trafficking from Latin America through Puerto Rico to the states, and enrichment of U.S. culture in general would also benefit the U.S., including Puerto Rico.
But there is another benefit that people are beginning to discuss. Admitting Puerto Rico as a state would make a strong statement about the United States to the watching world.
Is the U.S. swinging toward racism and away from democracy?
International reporting on the United States currently tends to present a nation that is no longer a model of democracy and equality. The Economist Intelligence Unit removed the U.S. from its list of “full democracies” in 2017, an Ivy League research project identified cracks in the U.S. democratic norms, and U.S. diplomats around the globe have been rebuked for racist remarks in the government.
The United States is a nation built on ideals. One of those ideals is free speech. Here at PR51st, we allow comments we find repugnant, because we believe in free speech. We don’t publish comments that attack individuals or include obscenities, but we never censor comments just because we don’t agree with them.
The love of freedom and equality in the United States allows talk that makes the U.S. look less democratic and less egalitarian than we would look if we worked to control people’s speech.
Actions speak louder than words.
Admitting Puerto Rico, a territory with a diverse population, will be a bold, morally strong action that will counter this negative impression.
Former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo, a member of the Puerto Rico Statehood Commission, made this point recently in front of Congress. If your representatives need to be reminded, you are the right person to do this. Contact your legislators now.