equal justice

Injustice for Puerto Rico is a problem because justice is one of the most important American values. Frequent thoughtful commenter Dennis Freytes expanded on this in a recent comment:

“Puerto Ricans face a magna CRISIS and Exodus to the States–which major ROOT components are-Economic; Fiscal; Infrastructure; Social; and Territorial Status—where each PART affects the other. The Federal undemocratic Territorial status affects everything; brings instability…; ties PR’s Hands to fairly compete-grow the Economy; limits progress; goes against our US Democratic founding principles!
The Federal Government should be the Servant of ALL the People; NOT the Master of some!
The People with Equal US Citizenship/ Rights come first, not a “separate & unequal” Status! In our US Republic, the power resides with all “We the People” (made up by individuals)–per our Declaration of Independence that calls for “Consent of the Governed”; noble US Constitution that calls for Equal Rights-Fairness, and a Republican form of Government or a Representative Democracy (“a Government of the People, by the People, and for the People”–Lincoln)! NO Federal Vote results in NO Democracy!
Even if one US Citizen (Individual) doesn’t have full Rights, it’s one too many!
The FEDERAL GOVERNMENT can end this unjust inequity now, but, has not done so! Instead, some generalize; provide biased EXCUSES that blame the Victim; are closet racists…; create double standards not applied to other Territories before PR. This results in a stalemate that perpetuates Federal subjugation!
Puerto Ricans Sacrifice & Contribute to our USA since 1513!”

We’d like to provide context for some of these points.

“Undemocratic territorial status affects everything”

As we’ve shown in our series on territories which became states, e very state which used to be a territory was powerless as a territory. All have been more prosperous as states. Territory status does indeed cause instability. Once Puerto Rico is a state, investors will feel confident enough to invest in businesses on the Island, not just to wash profits through the tax loopholes.

Puerto Rico will also be treated fairly under federal programs as a state. As a territory, Puerto Rico can be treated differently from a state, and we see that federal funding for things like healthcare and nutrition assistance are curtailed in Puerto Rico. Not only does this harm individuals, it also places extra burdens on the territorial government, which must make up for the shortfall.

“NO Federal Vote results in NO Democracy!”

Half the residents of states don’t bother to vote in presidential elections, so why does it matter so much that Puerto Ricans can’t vote? The first point is that Americans do not have to vote (as is the case in some countries) but all have the right to vote. Denying this right to the people of Puerto Rico literally disenfranchises millions of U.S. citizens.

But Puerto Rico also cannot vote for senators, since we have none. Each state has two. And we vote only for one member of Congress, who does not have a vote, even on laws affecting Puerto Rico. As a state, we would have four representatives in addition to the two senators.

As it stands, we have a much smaller voice in American democracy than we would have as a state. This lack of power was one of the primary motivations of the statehood struggles of the current states which used to be territories. Decisions are made for Puerto Rico by the representatives of the states.

“The Federal government can end this unjust inequity now, but, has not done so!”

For more than 125 years, Congress has had the option of admitting Puerto Rico as a state with a simple majority vote. Since 2012, Congress has had a mandate from the people to do so. They have chosen not to do this.

One reason has been the lack of consensus on the status question. But, as Governor Pierluisi said when he was Resident Commissioner, “Democracy doesn’t work that way.” Decisions are made by the majority of voters. The majority of Puerto Rico voters have chosen statehood three times, once in each of the referenda held in the 21st century.

Another pattern we see is in setting up hurdles for Puerto Rico which have not been faced by other territories. From suggestions that a super majority must choose statehood to the unconstitutional notion of requiring ratification by existing states, roadblocks have repeatedly been set up.

Puerto Rico should not have to jump through extra hoops. The U.S. Constitution states unequivocally that all states are to be admitted on an equal footing.

When we hear people suggest that Puerto Rico is too busy to think about political status or that Congress is too busy to think about Puerto Rico, it’s clear that these people are ignoring the essential nature of justice for the United States. “Even if one US citizen doesn’t have full rights, it’s one too many!” 3.2 million is certainly far too many.



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