Should Puerto Rico become the 51st state?
via AP

Should Puerto Rico become the 51st state?

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A Harvard study estimates at least 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria, far exceeding the official government death toll of 64. The tepid response from the U.S. government reignited debate around whether or not Puerto Rico should become the 51st state. Puerto Rico is home to roughly 3.5 million people, and many believe they deserve the right to vote in U.S. elections and representation in Congress. But others oppose statehood, arguing Puerto Rico is better off as a commonwealth or just claiming full independence from the United States. What do you think? 🇵🇷

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President Trump was criticized for remaining silent for so long after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and when he finally did tweet about the disaster, many felt it was inappropriate. Trump commented on Puerto Rico's "broken infrastructure" as compounding the problems in Puerto Rico, and noted the island's "massive debt" to Wall Street "must be dealt with." 

But many have pointed out that as an unincorporated U.S. territory, and not a state, Puerto Rico currently has no representation in Washington, and therefore very little say in how the federal government chooses to deal with the commonwealth.

John Nichols argues in The Nation that Puerto Rico's lack of representation in Washington plays a large role in the way the U.S. has dealt with the island post-storm.

The rebuilding process will be arduous, and expensive. Massive amounts of federal aid will be required by territories that experienced financial trouble long before this brutal storm season arrived. Puerto Rico has experienced fiscal turmoil in recent years at least in part because it is not allowed to respond to economic downturns in the same way states are, and because of the austerity agendas that have long been applied to US territories.
Puerto Rico has no voting representation in the House, the Senate, or the Electoral College that chooses the president. This has always been the case, despite the fact that Puerto Rico is home to roughly 3.5 million American citizens—more than Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, and 17 other US states.

Nichol's argues the devastation of Hurricane Maria and the U.S. response only further proves that Puerto Rico should have a voice and a vote.

Puerto Rico recently voted for a statehood referendum, which doesn't grant the territory statehood but does demonstrate the overwhelming momentum behind the statehood movement.

The unequal treatment of Puerto Rico under federal law violates the most basic principles of democracy and equality in the United States. And the fact that Puerto Ricans cannot vote for the president of the United States and do not have voting representation in Congress has deprived Puerto Rico economically and contradicted America’s democratic values.

But not all Puerto Ricans support statehood. Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá argues in The Hill that Puerto Rican statehood would be bad for the U.S. and Puerto Rico for both cultural and economic reasons. Acevedo-Vilá also believes statehood could worsen the chances of Puerto Rican independence.

For economic, identity and cultural reasons, statehood is a bad proposition for both Puerto Rico and the United States, and Puerto Ricans know that. Congress also knows that. It is time to move on and look for a different mutually beneficial alternative to solve the colonial status of Puerto Rico.

And many Americans oppose the idea of Puerto Rican statehood, believing it would drag down the U.S. economy.

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