Careful analysis, serious discussion, and maybe even a national consensus should precede a decision as momentous as the admission of a new state into the Union. Although Puerto Rico has been a commonwealth of the United States since the Spanish -American War, they only recently became United States citizens after a law passed in 1917. They will soon have the opportunity to vote on whether or not they will become the fifty-first state of the Union. There is currently a bill (H.R. 859), passed to the Senate that calls for a true referendum which for the first time in history, would allow Puerto Ricans to choose their own destiny.
Puerto Rico is a small island 90 miles long and 30 miles wide. It is located approximately 1000 miles southeast of Miami between the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hispaniola. Its capital city of San Juan, and the surrounding urban area is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
In the past 33 years there have been three votes to determine the status of Puerto Rico. In 1967, 1981, and 1993 the citizens of the island voted whether Puerto Rico should remain a commonwealth, become a state, or become an independent country. None of these votes were binding but were used for opinion purposes only. All three times, Puerto Ricans voted to remain, as they
are, a commonwealth of the United States.
Glynn Cudrow, co-author of Proposition 209 and Professor of Anthropology at CalState Hayward writes that “there is a mistaken belief that support for Puerto Rican statehood will translate into mainland Latino support for Republicans”.
Many Senators and Representatives in Congress are jumping too quickly into a situation that they are not well enough informed about. There are many negatives of Puerto Rico becoming a state of the Union.
According the Louisiana Republican Robert Livingston, 60% of the population of Puerto Rico is on welfare. This means that Puerto Rican statehood would require the transfer of welfare money, from states with their own economic problems, to the new state of Puerto Rico. It is estimated that welfare checks would increase by a minimum of $4 Billion a year.
In fiscal terms, Puerto Rico would rank last in contributions to the Federal Reserve, but on the contrary, they would rank first on the list of beneficiaries for that money. This is a serious mismatch that would require the careful consideration of people such as Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
According to Carlos Romero-Barcelo, the Puerto Rican delegate to Congress, ” Puerto Rico wants statehood, but neither our language or culture is negotiable”. Because of this, many political critics believe that the United States, by making Puerto Rico a state of the Union, would in fact be inheriting our own Northern Ireland, or our own Bosnia. Recently, the reputation of Puerto Ricans has been associated with violence as there were riots and the sort after President Clinton released members of a group called FALN.
All these things would be good for the island of Puerto Rico, but we that is only 3 million people. We have to think about the almost 300 million people in the current fifty state of the United States.
Right now there is a delicate spread of funds that has finally started to balance out because of new economic procedures. The coming of a new state will throw all of that off and we would be back to scratch.
There is no need for another state to be entered into the Union right now. The island is only approximately 3400 square miles with very little agriculture or anything of value. Many companies have their businesses on the island because it is cheaper for them to be located there. The only major economic impact on the island would be that these companies would have to start paying taxes on everything they make. The mainland would then see an increase in the price of these products to counteract the taxes.
The people of Congress must realize that continuing this crusade is a frivolous effort to add popular support for their parties. They need to put away their campaigning attitudes and, instead of speaking to the public, need to speak for the public. Many do not want this to become a reality and the facts are very convincing against the island becoming a state. How can Congress so blatantly ignore the wishes of the general public?