James Joseph Dornacker left a comment at our Facebook page:
“I have one question;
What happens, hypothetically, if independence is achieved, what happens to those of us that want to go stateside and move all of our household goods and cars that may be financed and transfer to a federal job from the federal job we have here, that will shut down, like the VA, and all federal entities, WHAT WILL HAPPEN, as many may not have the resources to move everything or the funds to move it, and Puerto Rico has no right to restrict us taking our financed vehicles stateside, I want to know what will happen?. I do not think anyone has really asked this serious and straightforward question.”
This question, and all the other questions about what would happen if Puerto Rico chose independence, do not have simple answers. The true, simple answer would probably have to be, “Who knows? Anything could happen.”
Independence is very unlikely to win
Independence has never gotten more than 5% of any status vote. There has never been a governor elected from the Independence Party. This just isn’t a very popular option in Puerto Rico.
However, it is possible under the U.S. Constitution. And it is one of the options presented in The Puerto Rico Status Act.
So let’s imagine it.
Everything will be up to Puerto Rico
In The Puerto Rico Status Act, the definition of Independence says this:
“Puerto Rico is a sovereign nation that has full authority and responsibility over its territory and population under a constitution of its own adoption which shall be the supreme law of the nation.
Puerto Rico is vested with full powers and responsibilities consistent with the rights and responsibilities that devolve upon a sovereign nation under international law, including its own fiscal and monetary policy, immigration, trade, and the conduct in its own name and right of relations with other nations and international organizations.”
In other words, everything will be up to Puerto Rico. The decisions will be made by the government of the new nation.
What Congress has said
This subject came up in the discussion of HR 8393 in the House Natural Resources Committee.
Rep. Bruce Westerman said, “If the people of Puerto Rico want to be independent, that means there is no special treatment and no special benefits.” Other members of Congress took the same position.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez spoke up, saying that the United States should be paying reparations to Puerto Rico for past transgressions and that “the bare minimum” would be to guarantee lifelong U.S. citizenship. Some others may agree with her. But we should recognize that many in Congress will see a Declaration of Independence as a rejection of the United States which should put Puerto Rico in the same position as any other foreign country.
It is very likely that all federal jobs in Puerto Rico will end.
People born in a state are U.S. citizens under the 14th amendment of the Constitution. They will not lose their U.S. citizenship, though it is possible that they will have to choose between U.S. citizenship and Puerto Rico citizenship. They will therefore be free to move to the United States if Puerto Rico declares independence.
Who will fund that move? Probably it will be up to the individuals themselves. Clearly, it would not be the responsibility of the United States. Nor would it be to the benefit of Puerto Rico.
Equally, if people born in Puerto Rico but living in a state decided to choose Puerto Rico citizenship and move to a new nation of Puerto Rico, they would be responsible for their own transportation.
The position of families with members born in a state and members born in the territory of Puerto Rico could be complex.