should the U.S. want Puerto Rico as a state?
would benefit from it. Puerto Ricans have brought
much to our society; politically, economically,
Puerto Rican people have earned it through their
steadfast support of our country, our flag, and by sending their sons
and daughters to fight in US wars, our wars, ever since the Spanish
American War in 1898.
cannot continue to operate a colony, forcing U.S.
citizens to accept a second-class citizenship, one
without full political rights and equal representation,
and not guaranteed by the constitution. The United
States is a republic, not an empire
taxpayers are paying billions per year to prop up
an economy that in its present form doesn’t
work well. It doesn't provide proportionate
economic benefit for Puerto Ricans, nor does it provide
to pay their share.
status was never meant to be permanent , it was meant
as a transitional step
should Puerto Ricans want to be a state?
should not have to wait any longer to gain constitutionally-guaranteed
citizenship with full political rights and responsibilities
Ricans would then share as everyone else in full
benefits from our government, while paying taxes
like everyone else
the words of Don Luis Ferre, Ex-Governor of Puerto
Rico, and winner of the U.S. Medal of Freedom, "It
is an honor to be a citizen of the greatest country
in the history of the World."
would it cost the U.S. taxpayer to bring Puerto Rico
into the fold?
on studies conducted by noted economists, it is projected
that Puerto Rico as a state will actually contribute
to, rather than be dependent upon, the U.S. taxpayer.
why. Under the current system, Puerto Rico costs the
U.S. over $9.7 billion yearly. Why? Because thats
what we lose from a combination of federal taxes forgone
from large corporations doing business on the island
as well as from individuals, together with grants-in-aid
and transfer payments to the island. Puerto Rico gets
significant amounts of federal grants-in-aid and transfer
payments to individuals, such as veterans benefits,
and welfare payments, which are not off-set by taxes
collected on the island. (Puerto Ricans also draw Social
Security, but they pay into it like everyone else.)
These payments are in large part "needs tested." In
other words, they support people who are elderly, poor
wrong with that, except that no income taxes are being
paid in. Part of the reason there are so many poor
people in Puerto Rico is that the economic system in
place under Commonwealth just doesnt work well,
creating a situation where many people are out of work;
La Alcaldia (city hall) In San Juan.
Puerto Rico were to vote for independence, even though
there is no evidence that they will, it would also
be costly. It is inconceivable that the U.S. would
set Puerto Rico adrift without a large "transition
package" and continued foreign aid of a large
magnitude. Remember, we are talking here of people
who are currently U.S. citizens, who would demand
favorable treatment and help. Puerto Rico, as an
3.8 million people and no other significant natural
resources, is not economically viable as a separate
nation without significant external aid and free
access to large markets like our own.
statehood, Puerto Rico can be economically viable and
a contributor to our nations wealth.
at what happened to the last two states admitted to
the Union, Hawaii and Alaska. Both economies grew substantially
after being admitted to the Union and became net contributors
to the U.S. Treasury. Puerto Rico would receive equal
treatment in both taxes and benefits, the same as the
other states. Benefits to the island under the current
system are limited by Congress. Those limitations would
be removed. At the same time, payments of federal taxes
would be phased in, as provided by the enabling legislation.
We estimate Puerto Rico as a state will contribute
nearly $2 billion to the U.S. Treasury each year. How
is that possible? Through economic growth. With economic
growth there are more jobs, fewer unemployed, and less
of a public assistance burden.
is this statehood issue of Puerto Rico important
now? Cant it wait?
Ricans have been waiting over 100 years for
equal treatment; from 1898 when the United States
wrested control of the island from Spain following
the Spanish-American War, until today. That is a
long time to wait. No other U.S. Territory has been
held in limbo for this length of time
world has changed during that century. Colonialism
was commonplace in 1898, and was a foundation for
large industrial economies. Colonies were used
as friendly and dependable sources of raw materials
for industry, as markets for finished
products and for soldier for armies. The world
is different today. Everyone in the world has much
higher standards and expectations regarding human
and civil rights,
and worldwide the United States has championed this enhanced
notion of self-determination and equality
United States remains the leading nation in the world,
economically and militarily. More importantly,
it is the preeminent standard bearer for democracy. Our nation
is still looked to for moral leadership in the world. Therefore,
our colonial relationship with Puerto Rico is
not justified by todays standards and not in
our nations best interest
Rico continues to be dependent on the U.S. taxpayers'
Honor Guards at U.S. Cemetry in Bayamon, PR
are the economic arguments for statehood?
arguments for statehood from the U.S. perspective lead
to one single overriding factor-economic growth.
Statehood means that the island would shed its ineffective and costly reliance
on preferential tax credits and more fully integrate into
the national economy. In a study by Hexner, Jenkins,
Lad and Lame, "Puerto Rican Statehood: A Precondition
to Sound Economic Growth," the case is persuasively
made that statehood is necessary for the island's
Rico would no longer be a substantial cash drain on
the U.S. economy. With statehood, the Puerto Rico economy
will grow, become a source of additional revenue to
the national treasury, and
be less costly in support for the unemployed,
and for disabled individuals who require public assistance.
Puerto Rico, the standard of living would profoundly
improve for the average person. With average income
going up, families will be able to pay their fair share
of taxes while still improving their net income and
standard of living. For those with low incomes,
the U.S. citizens
of Puerto Rico will have the same access to tax relief
and federal support programs as any other citizen of the
country, unlike under the present status where
significant disparities exist.
about the issue of the English language?
Some have made the argument that Puerto Rico should
not be a state because Puerto Ricans do not speak
English, and we should not have a non-English speaking
state. This is a red herring issue for the following
- English is already an official language on the
island, as is Spanish
Ricans are already citizens of the U.S., and have
been since the Jones Act of 1917. There was no language
requirement with the granting of citizenship then,
so it makes no sense to ask this question now. In
fact, there has never been a language requirement
of territories entering the union in our history
is a required subject in public schools through high
is the only language of the Federal Court system
and all U.S. government agencies in Puerto Rico and
is the common language in banking, commerce, real
estate and the tourism industry
- Learning English as well as Spanish just makes good sense.
English is the the international language of
business, science, and increasingly, diplomacy.
Puerto Rico should do all it can to increase English
language capability. But, making it a
requirement of statehood would ignore the precedents
of Enabling Acts of Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma
would Puerto Rico be controlled by the Democratic
Party or the Republican Party?
Rico has a strong and vibrant Republican Party.
Luis Ferre served as Chairman of the Republican
Party of Puerto Rico for much of his life. Former
Lt. Governor Norma Burgos and many New Progressive
Party members of the Puerto Rico Legislature and
mayors on the island are Republican.
this mean the Republicans will dominate? No, because
Puerto Rico also has a strong and vibrant Democratic
Party. Just ask former Governor Pedro Rossello, or
Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo. They
can predict how a state will turn out politically. We must remember that when Hawaii and Alaska
came into the Union, it was widely predicted that
Hawaii was assured for the Republicans and Alaska
would only send Democrats to the Senate and House
of Representatives. How did it turn out? Just the
Democratic Senators Inouye and Akaka of Hawaii; or
Republican Senators Murkowski and Stevens of Alaska,
or their Republican Congressman, Don Young. In fact,
it has been Don Young who lent his name to the "Young
Bill" in 1998 which passed the House of Representatives
authorizing a self-determination process for Puerto
fact is, Puerto Rico, like most states in the union,
will be a contested state politically, with good
candidates from both parties being sent to Washington
to represent the island. Puerto Rico is politically
sophisticated with a history of strong party affiliation
and contested elections. And nearly everyone who
is eligible to vote in Puerto Rico exercises that privilege.
Does A Territory Become A State?
routes have been taken in the long history of the United
States for colonies and territories to become a state. Normally, the area must muster local political support
and petition the U.S. Congress for admittance to the
Union. The approval process is relatively straightforward. A bill, called an "enabling act," must gain
a majority vote in both houses of the U.S. Congress,
the House of Representatives and the Senate. When approved,
it is signed by the President. Normally there will
be provisions in the bill spelling out any transitional
measures that must be taken to become a state by either
the petitioning entity or the U.S. government. Admission
of a state does not change the Constitution. It requires
no super majority; nor does it require ratification
by the individual states.
Puerto Rico's Legislature Building
Happening In Congress Now on the Statehood For
Puerto Rico issue?
105th (1997-'98) Congress was the most active on this
issue of any Congress in History.
bill co-sponsored by a host of Congressmen from both
Republican and Democratic Parties, (HR 856), after
long debate was passed by a vote of 209 to 208. This
legislation, The Puerto Rico Political Status Act,
commonly referred to as the "Young Bill" after
its chief sponsor, Congressman Don Young of Alaska,
established definitions for the three basic alternatives,
statehood, independence or separate sovereignty, and
commonwealth, and a multi-year process by which a final
disposition of the issue could be made. Essentially,
the process called for a referendum on the issue to
be held in Puerto Rico. Once the decision was made
for statehood or independence, a process would be set
up to transition into that status, to be agreed to
by subsequent votes of the U.S. Congress and Puerto
similar bill, S-472, was initiated in the Senate, sponsored
by Senator Murkowski, Chairman of the Senate Energy and
Natural Resources Committee, and a host of co-sponsors. The bill was not reported from committee after the Chairman
concluded that due to the lack of time remaining on the
legislative calendar, there would not be time for Senate
action. What the Senate did do, however, was pass a resolution
(S. Res. 279) by unanimous consent that endorsed a Puerto
Rico plebiscite (scheduled for December 1998), which called
for preferences on status options.
December 1998, a non-binding plebiscite on status was
held in Puerto Rico, but due to the alternatives presented
the voters, little in the way of definite conclusions
can be drawn. In addition to the normal alternatives,
of statehood, commonwealth, and independence, voters
were given the alternatives of None of The Above and Free
Association. Because of the confusion on the
ballot with definitions of status provided, the None
of The Above alternative won the majority (50.2%)
votes cast. Statehood won the plurality of votes cast
for the actual alternatives decisively (46.5%), followed
by Independence (2.5%); Free Association (0.2%; and
legislation favoring self determination for Puerto
Rico has been pushed in the U.S. Congress during the
period 1999-2003. This was due primarily to the preoccupation
of Congress with other issues, the national election
campaign and Puerto Rican elections that run conterminous,
and subsequent world and national events. It was also
due in part to the preoccupation in Puerto Rico and
the Congress with the issue related to Navy use of Vieques Island for bombing practice and the accidental
death of a Puerto Rican security guard. It is possible
that legislation could be introduced in 2004 or 2005.
heard that not all Puerto Ricans want statehood. Why not?
It is true that not all Puerto Ricans favor statehood, but the trend for the
last two decades has been towards majority support of joining the union. There
are some very legitimate reasons why people may favor another alternative, commonwealth
(the current status), independence, or free association (like Micronesia). The
vast majority of people in Puerto Rico have a very positive feeling towards the
United States, even though some may not want to become a state. Although we do
not agree with these reasons, we understand them.
people would rather Puerto Rico become an independent
country. Puerto Ricans are a proud people and a
minority in Puerto Rico want sovereignty as a separate
country. We believe that this is an honorable
alternative, but in vote after vote, independence has
been rejected by the overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans.
National identity is understandable, and is something that the
people of every territory that ever became a state of
the United States had to grapple with. Strong national
and state identity is evident in every state of the union. Indeed,
the original 13 colonies had to also deal with this issue
over whether or not and how to give up some of
their individual sovereignty in order to form a
people are concerned that their Spanish heritage and
culture will be overwhelmed and therefore lost forever
by a dominant "anglo" culture. This is also
an understandable feeling. We believe that Puerto
Rico and Puerto Ricans will never lose their identity, while becoming an
equal part of our whole country. Why not? Because Puerto
Rican identity is strong and continues to be so.
Puerto Rico has been exposed to U.S. mainland cultures for a long time,
100 years---and Puerto Rican culture and heritage has
thrived and grown.
Puerto Rico has adopted and adapted aspects of U.S.
culture, just as we have incorporated much of Puerto
Rican culture when exposed to it. At their core,
these cultures are western and we believe they are compatible and complement each other. They are not a threat to one another.
In sum, Puerto Ricans, while citizens, in much the same way
as Texans and others view themselves, are still Puerto
Ricans despite the more than 100 years of the deep and
strong relationship with the mainland United States.
backers insist that statehood would bring more
pressure against Puerto Rican culture through full
integration into the Union. But the fact is, Puerto
Ricans and mainland citizens have moved freely
between the island and the mainland with no resulting
cultural dilution or weakening of Puerto Rican's strong
identity, even with the large migrations of the 1930's, the
1950's and since then. Furthermore, the fact is that
Puerto Ricans will be in a stronger position to control
their own destiny as a state than it ever can be as a
territory, achieved through the protections of the U.S.
Constitution and full representation in Congress that would
be available to it as a state. Currently, Puerto Rico is legally a territory,
and governed by the will of the Congress. Even
U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans is granted by
act of Congress, and due to the territorial status
of Puerto Rico, is not guaranteed by the Constitution.
Federal Taxes. Some Puerto Ricans
believe they would be worse off
economically under statehood because they would be
subject to federal income taxes. But our studies show
that Puerto Ricans
will be better off through the economic growth that
would come from full integration into the U.S. economy, and have higher disposable
incomes, after taxes, under the statehood option. They
would also have full access to the full range of federal
support and programs available to citizens in need.
backers insist on what we call the "Big Lie." They
claim Puerto Rico can continue to have the "best
of both worlds" under the Commonwealth status
and continue to get federal benefits, while they
promise even more
financial and economic benefits under their plans;
without paying federal
income taxes and still staying outside the union.
They promise all this while Puerto Rico and Puerto
Ricans are without full voting representation in the
House of Representatives and the Senate. Under
the Commonwealth arrangement Puerto Rico's one
single delegate to Congress has no voting rights.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Evidence shows that the Puerto Rico state income tax
burden to Puerto Ricans under the current Commonwealth
system in which the islands has its own tax system, is
excessive and disproportionate to incomes when compared with
the states. This reality is even more acute with
respect to the majority of Puerto Rican families and
individuals, those with low and moderate incomes.
Approximately 50 percent of Puerto Ricans live under the
federal poverty line. The fact is that the
commonwealth option costs Puerto Ricans economically
everyday. Full integration to the national economy
will provide job creation and income benefits.
Preferential tax benefits to mainland corporations are
already being reduced due to legislation that is phasing out
IRS Section 936 tax incentives for these corporations.
It is estimated that Puerto
Ricans are on the average $6,000 per year poorer
today than citizens of Mississippi, our least well
Payroll Taxes in Puerto Rico - No change with
statehood. Puerto Ricans are already integrated to
the mainland payroll tax system and therefore full
incorporation as a state of the union will not mean drastic
changes in the way individuals and families in Puerto Rico
make their contributions. It will not cause economic
hardship to Puerto Ricans nor it will require new federal
processes or the creation of new agencies for
implementation. Puerto Ricans already fully contribute
Payroll Taxes to the national Social Security and Medicare
systems (combined these are known as FICA tax) the same way
as all other US taxpayers. The rate is exactly the
same as that paid by taxpayers in the states, 7.65%.
The self-employed are also already required to pay Social
Security and Medicare taxes at the same rate, and are
permitted to take a deduction on their income tax returns,
proportionate to the self-employed. As mentioned
earlier, Puerto Ricans pay proportionately more in Puerto
Rico state income tax than the citizens of similar incomes
in the states who pay a combination of federal, state and
sometimes local income taxes.
Medicaid - Commonwealth status continues to
immiserate U.S. citizens in need. For the
least financially well off in US society, Medicaid is often
the support mechanism through which needed medical care
service and attention is provided. Medicaid funding is
disbursed to state governments and the program is
administered by state agencies. Due to Puerto Rico's
status as a territory and not a state, the US citizens of
Puerto Rico receive only 15 percent of the funding in Puerto
Rico where 50 percent of citizens live under the poverty
Federal funding for Medicaid in Puerto Rico is capped at
about $200 million annually as of December 2003, according
to the Council of State Governments. The federal
government funds 85 percent of Medicaid spending in the
is an honorable option that gets high marks only from
those who think in emotional and highly nationalistic terms.
Puerto Rican identity is strong and will always be
strong, irrespective of status. A people with
a history as long and rich as Puerto Ricans will not
lose their identity as a result of a change in
Commonwealth holds out the falsehood that Puerto Ricans call their own shots,
can have all benefits
bestowed by U.S. citizenship, and still not pay federal
taxes. To us, this inequality is the worst of all worlds and
Commonwealth backers paints
a colorful that simply does not exist. It does
not exist now and under Commonwealth status it never
will. Fundamentally, it cannot.
In response to these myths we put forward the
1. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States
with limited self-government.
Despite pretensions to the contrary by proponents of the
existing status Puerto Rico does not call its own shots in
its dealing with the U.S. Congress, the mainland, regionally
or internationally. It has been the habit of
commonwealth backers, to say, suggest or imply that it does;
and this is both a gross untruth and a misinterpretation of
the most dishonest proportions.
2. The people of Puerto Rico are not fully
represented and do not have fiull voting rights in the U.S.
Congress where they are represented by a single non-voting
delegate. Therefore, the people of Puerto Rico do not
exercise sovereignty over their own affairs.
While Puerto Ricans elect a governor and have a state
government like all the states, the United States Congress
controls the destiny of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico's
external affair, in foreign trade, international relations
and international security affairs including military
issues. Puerto Rico has powerless representation in
the U.S. House of Representatives under Commonwealth.
It is also a fact that Federal law is already paramount in
Puerto Rico due to its territorial status, and has been
since the Treaty of Paris in 1898.
3. The U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico will never be
able to deal with the Congress on an equal footing until
they have full sovereign voting rights in Congress and
thereby exercise control over their own affairs. This
can only be achieved with statehood.
4. Puerto Ricans do not have constitutionally
guaranteed citizenship now and what they have is a limited
second class variety extended to them by Act of Congress in
1917. United States citizenship can only be guaranteed
by Puerto Rico becoming a state.
Under the current status Puerto Ricans will not receive
more or equal benefits as citizens residing in the states.
On the contrary, it is likely that under the current status
they will probably receive less federal benefits, and are
losing more federal tax incentives as each year goes by.
Statehood, on the other hand, will offer first class
citizenship with full rights as guaranteed by the U.S.
Constitution. Puerto Rico will be able to send a full
delegation of elected representatives and senators to the
U.S. Congress and be able to vote for President for the
first time. That very same U.S. Constitution will
protect the rights of Puerto Rico as a state and Puerto
Ricans as citizens, the same as the other 50 states.
And we predict the island will experience swift economic
growth with statehood, bringing its economic indicators and
standard of living up to a level equal to the other states
of the Union.