Jennifer Gonzales, the Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico, recently introduced a bill that would enable Puerto Rico to begin the process of obtaining statehood. The Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018 would establish a Congressional commission to determine what steps are necessary for Puerto Rico to attain statehood. It’s been long enough. Congress should support this bill and welcomes Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the Union.
The United States has had a long and complicated relationship with Puerto Rico. In 1898, the United States invaded Puerto Rico, at that time a colony of Spain. A year later, Spain officially ceded control over Puerto Rico to the United States with the Treaty of Paris. Since then, there has been a small but active independence movement on the island. However, their numbers are dwarfed by those who desire statehood.
Despite their long and complicated history with the United States, many Puerto Ricans have proudly embraced their new American identity.
There are many reasons that Puerto Rico should be admitted as the 51st state. Perhaps the strongest reason is the desire of Puerto Ricans themselves to attain statehood. In 2017, Puerto Rico held a referendum on statehood and the results were overwhelming. Over 97% of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of joining the United States as a state.
To deny them this desire, which was expressed through legal means, goes against the core of American values of justice and self-determination.
Another reason for Puerto Rican statehood is that it will provide equality for America’s second-class citizens. Under current law, Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States and thus come with all the responsibilities of a citizen, including being drafted for military service. However, they enjoy none of the benefits of American citizenship. They are not allowed to vote in presidential elections and they have no say in Congress, nor do they receive the same Medicaid allotment as a state does. Puerto Ricans also have to pay FICA taxes, yet they cannot receive Supplemental Security Income. Beyond that, they are not eligible for several federal tax cuts, such as the Child Tax Credit.
A final reason for Puerto Rican statehood is that it would make Puerto Rico stronger, and a strong Puerto Rico can only benefit the United States. Puerto Rico’s economy has been strangled by unfair laws imposed on it by Congress, such as the Jones Act, which mandates that only American companies can transport goods to Puerto Rico. Removing these restrictions would enable companies to invest more in Puerto Rican businesses and industries and would create a more resilient Puerto Rican economy. Statehood would also enable more federal funds to be made available to improve Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, such as roads and power grids.
Admitting Puerto Rico as the 51st state would bring many benefits for both the United States and for Puerto Ricans. Along with these benefits, this would right many historical wrongs and enable Puerto Ricans to receive the full promise of American citizenship.
It is time to add another star to our flag. It is time to add another state to the Union. It is time for Puerto Rico to become a state.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.