Manipulating Puerto Rico

A vote is scheduled in the House Thursday which would be the first step in Puerto Rico becoming our 51st state. The people of Puerto Rico have the right to make this decision, but they deserve to have it presented to them in a clear and honest way. Would we really want to welcome a new state by starting off with manipulation? How will this benefit anyone?

Among several questionable provisions in the bill (HR 2499), there is a provision allowing Puerto Ricans already residing in the United States to vote. From The Foundry blog:

Another odd provision allows non-resident Puerto Ricans to vote on statehood for the Commonwealth. The bill states that “all United States citizens born in Puerto Rico who comply, to the satisfaction of the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission, with all Commission requirements (other than the residency requirement) applicable to eligibility to vote in a general election in Puerto Rico.” Residency requirements may be waived, because Puerto Ricans living in the states would naturally favor statehood for the Commonwealth.

This provision allows non-resident Puerto Ricans to undermine the will of the residents of the Commonwealth. According to the U.S. Census, there are more Puerto Ricans residing in the 50 states, than in the proposed 51st state. The estimates as part of the American Community Survey estimates that out of the 301 million people in the United States, 4.13 million are of Puerto Rican descent. The Census also estimates that the population of Puerto Rico is a mere 3.97 million. This would allow for the will of the residents of the Commonwealth to be overridden by people who have chosen to move one of the 50 states.

Did you catch that? There are more Puerto Ricans living here than in Puerto Rico. They could conceivably vote this in, even if all of the people living there voted against it. Shouldn’t the people who have to live with the results be the ones to have exclusive claim to that vote?

I can’t help but get the impression that this is not a fair and just process. Becoming one of the states that form the United States of America together should be Puerto Ricans’ free and informed choice, not the result of political manipulation by those who will not even notice the consequences of this development in their daily lives.

  • Omar

    There are a number of misconceptions over Puerto Rico's political status and HR 2499. First of all, HR 2499 does not immediately guarantee any status change.HR 2499 called for two ballots to address the question over Puerto Rico's political status. The bill would have ask Puerto Ricans who reside in the island if they consent to the current status as a territory (also called Commonwealth) or if islanders want to move towards change of status. If a majority would have vote for change (second option) in the first ballot, then the second ballot would ask them what status option they would prefer. The original bill listed three options: statehood, independence and free association (an association between two sovereign states that is not subjected to the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution). When the Foxx amendment was added to the bill, the current Commonwealth status was included in what was supposed to be the second ballot. Like the Foxx amendment The "non-residential vote" provision was also added onto the bill, but the Government of Puerto Rico had said that non-residents would not vote in the plebiscite and that only the people who reside in the island could vote in the plebiscite that HR 2499 would have authorized had the bill became law. HR 2499 does not favor any political status option over another, nor does it exclude any option. It is simply a bill that asks the people who live in Puerto Rico what status option they would prefer for the island. Congress would still have to vote to approve the option that the islanders chose.