Surprise, Puerto Ricans Vote for Statehood

Little noticed in the billion-dollar presidential election was a vote on the ballot in Puerto Rico. It asked Puerto Rican citizens the question, Do you want to become a state? This question has been on the ballot only three other times in the last half century. And each time, the answer has been no. We’d rather remain a commonwealth. This time the island voted by a nearly two-to-one majority, YES!

You might say, well, just because they ask to become a state doesn’t mean we have to accept them as a state, and that is true. What it DOES mean, as it turns out, is that the U. S. Congress, by law, will have to consider the matter. And in the end, Congress will have very few grounds to turn them down. It’s in our Declaration of Independence. It says that “a government’s power comes from the consent of those governed.” Puerto Ricans, an island governed by us, no longer consent to be a commonwealth.

Now, if you are a right-wing Republican you might ask, what gives this group of 4,000,000 Latinos on an island the right to be subject to our Declaration of Independence? And they want to become CITIZENS?

Well, guess what. They already ARE citizens. They have representatives in Congress. They pay many federal taxes. They can be drafted into the military in time of war. They can freely move to the 50 States from Puerto Rico and back. So forget it. They are not aliens. Their representatives in Congress have the right to talk, but they can’t vote.

Some Puerto Ricans favoring statehood had something of a say in our recent presidential election. During the primary campaigns, Rick Santorum went to Puerto Rico to speak to some Republican supporters there. Puerto Rico was about to hold a primary (on March 18, 2012). They had 23 delegates coming to vote at the Republican National Convention. Yes! Puerto Rico has delegates!

Santorum drew a crowd of Puerto Rican Republicans. They all wanted to hear him repeat what he had said in prior speeches, which was that he favored Puerto Rico deciding whether or not they wanted statehood. So he did say that, but then he added something.

“Like in every other state, it [must comply] with this and every other federal law—and that is that English should be the main language.”

It did not go well. There is no such federal law anyway.

There are lots of arguments both for and against Puerto Rico becoming our 51st state.

For one thing, if you’ve been to Puerto Rico, you know the landscape is stunningly beautiful. It has magnificent mountains and rainforests, beaches and waterfalls. If it became a state, as a resort destination, it could rival Hawaii. It is also of military significance, with naval bases and both air force and army bases. It also has a considerable pharmaceutical and electronics industry.

Unfortunately, in its longtime position as a “commonwealth,” with non-voting members of Congress, it has had very little access or influence to get important federal infrastructure projects funded, and so, today, some of its roads and other facilities are not what they should be. If fixed up, Puerto Rico could truly be a treasure.

(An argument against statehood is that in the present system, the federal government grants the Puerto Rican government $10 billion in aid in place of infrastructure appropriations every year. But because this is not a state, there’s no federal oversight of it so much of it is wasted. If it got statehood, we’d just call it federal money going to a state.)

Another argument from the right against statehood for Puerto Rico is, within the framework of the current population trends in America where “minorities” are slowly overtaking “whites,” having 4,000,000 more “minorities” would just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back—or to put it another way, hasten where we are already heading, down the road to ruination because of these new unwanted foreigners coming to America.

It’s my opinion that the economic troubles we are now in are partially, maybe even primarily, caused by so-called “unwanted” south-of-the-border foreigners coming here illegally, working hard for little money, then sending it back to their home countries without having to pay any taxes on it because, since they are unwanted, we refuse to recognize them as citizens and so are unable to tax them.

Sounds like a little common sense—if we knight the unwanteds into citizens, we can tax them—would go a long way to solving that financial issue. But then we would be giving up on our immigration “quota” system, which lets this person in, but not that person, depending on where they are coming from. What are we defending here? A private club?

The quota system is not how it used to be, by the way. All that stuff about Ellis Island and the immigrants back around 1900 was designed to keep out people who were criminals or carrying infectious diseases. From Ellis Island you can look out to the Statue of Liberty. We all know what is inscribed on that statue. There were no quotas then. Quotas came in in 1921.

The law reads that those allowed in should be ethnically in proportion to the ethnic percentages of the ethnic groups already here. Therefore the majority ethnic group in place in 1921 would remain the majority ethnic group. At that time, some people believe, it was meant to stop Jews fleeing persecution from Europe.

Personally, I can think of only one really acceptable reason why we should not make the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico into a state, and that is because it would screw up the American flag.

We did fine with 13 states. We made the 13 into a circle of stars. Currently we have 50 states. They work in offsetting rows of stars. And before that we had 48 states, which made great cornrows of stars in straight lines. We even must have done beautiful things before we got Arizona and New Mexico as states back in the early 1900s, though I don’t know what it was. All I do know is, with 51 stars you cannot make any pattern that would make any sense. It just won’t work. Nobody would salute a flag with 51 stars.

There are, however, two solutions to this. One is that we throw one of the existing states out of the union when we invite Puerto Rico in. So we stay at 50. All we have to do is decide which one has to go.

The other is (and this works to keep everything in balance for those extreme right-wing Republicans) to take on a 52nd state that will counterbalance the minority immigrant state of Puerto Rico. And I know exactly what should be the 52nd state.

Nova Scotia. There hasn’t been a minority person in Nova Scotia in years. It’s an English-speaking province of Canada completely blocked in by French speaking provinces. (More dang foreigners.) So it would not be missed. Also, the way it is attached to the Canadian mainland geographically, as a big lump of fruit attached by some sort of stalk, it’s absolutely ripe for picking.

Fifty-two. Now there’s a number the designers can make work.


Tell us what you think at

More from Our Sister Sites