By Adam Brownstein
The destruction caused to Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria is one of tragedy and sadness. The tragedy and view by many Americans that the aid and recovery efforts being provided to Puerto Rico by the United States is happening at a relatively slow rate, has triggered the re-emergence of the everlasting debate on whether or not Puerto Rico should become the 51st state of these United States.
(Note: Out of respect for the victims of Hurricane Maria, this article will stray away from Democrat vs. Republican politics and strictly just talk about the Republican view on the topic and facts associated with possible statehood.)
In what may come as a shock to those reading, the Republican Party does support the notion of Puerto Rico becoming a state. The 2016 Republican Party Platform on this topic stated: “We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state. We further recognize the historic significance of the 2012 local referendum in which a 54% majority voted to end Puerto Rico’s current status as a U.S. territory, and 61% chose statehood over options for sovereign nationhood. We support the federally sponsored political status referendum authorized and funded by an Act of Congress in 2014 to ascertain the aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico. If the 2012 local vote for statehood is ratified, Congress should approve an enabling act with terms for Puerto Rico’s future admission as the Fifty-First State of the Union.”
Currently, people from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which has been in U.S. control since 1898 and a commonwealth since 1952, can have their own governor, pay into Social Security, have access to Medicare and Medicaid, have U.S. citizenship upon birth, vote in presidential primary elections and enlist into the United States military.
Upon the approval of statehood, Puerto Rico will: have the right to vote in presidential elections, be required to pay federal income tax, have representation in Congress, possibly provide a way to help increase the amount of job opportunities for the people living in Puerto Rico, decrease the island’s poverty level and lift trade policies on the island, which will allow the usage of open trade.
The last option is big because Puerto Rico is currently billions of dollars in debt, and experts on the topic say this benefit from statehood would be the best way for the island to overcome this crippling factor.
In both 2012 and 2017 a majority of Puerto Rican voters who participated in non-binding voting for statehood voted for the option of having Puerto Rico become a state.
However, this vote, as indicated by the usage of the term non-binding, does not have final say on the matter. As stated within Article 4, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the power is left to Congress to give a territory the title of statehood, and as evident by the number of stars on the American Flag, this hasn’t occurred.
As of publication, a bill titled H.R. 260, which seeks to give Puerto Rico statehood by the year 2025, is currently going through the committee stages of the bill process. The last development of this bill occurred in February of this year when the House decided to refer the bill to the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs.
Adam Brownstein is the vice president of the Hofstra Republicans
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