USA Libre! Why Can`t All Americans Vote On Puerto Rican Statehood?
While I was
in Puerto Rico, where my family moved in 1956 from Los Angeles,
debated political issue was statehood. Should the island
became part of the U.S. in 1898 after the
become America`s 51st state, declare its independence or remain
a U.S. Commonwealth—a status it attained in 1952?
Island residents` majority opinion,
which I recall hearing expressed during my youth, was that the
Commonwealth option provided Puerto Ricans with the best of all
Except for voting privileges in
U.S. presidential elections, Puerto Ricans as
automatic American citizens get the
country`s inherent benefits without having to pay
federal income tax (although they do contribute to social
security). They can travel to, work in and
remain indefinitely in the U.S. without challenge.
But now, however, a fourth vote on
Puerto Rican political status may be in the offing.
A Puerto Rico referendum bill passed
the U.S. House of Representatives on April 29 by a 223-169 vote.
H. R. 2499, the Puerto Rican Democracy Act,
calls for a so-called
“non-binding” expression by Puerto Rican voters on their
island`s future political status.
The bill authorizes Puerto Rico to
conduct a first vote asking its people whether they
favor the Commonwealth
status quo; or
prefer the nebulous
“different political status”
If a majority votes for change, a
second round of voting would then ask whether Puerto Rico should
a modified commonwealth
(incomprehensibly defined as
association with the United States: Puerto Rico and the United
States would form a political association between sovereign
nations that will not be subject to the Territorial Clause of
the United States Constitution;”);
or (d) remain a Commonwealth.
under H.R. 2499, Puerto Ricans living on the island
and U.S. citizens born in Puerto Rico—but
not necessarily living there today—would be eligible to
participate in the plebiscites.
show (amazingly) that slightly more Puerto Ricans, about 4.2
in the U.S. than on the island. And according to
private surveys, 73 percent of stateside Puerto Ricans would
likely vote for statehood, thereby potentially overriding the
will of island residents.
H.R. 2499`s final terms thwarted an
effort by Puerto Rico`s pro-statehood, leftist
New Progressive Party to drop altogether the
Commonwealth option from the final ballot and to limit voters`
choices to either statehood or independence. The PNP, as it is
called, controls both the governor`s office and the legislature.
My guess: had the only ballot
choices been between statehood and independence, the election
would have resulted in a landslide vote for statehood.
Desperate Puerto Rican statehood
proponents were willing to use strong-arm tactics to force their
way into the Union to rid Puerto Rico
heavy debt load. Puerto Rico`s public debt has
grown at a faster pace than the growth of its economy, reaching
$46.7 billion in 2008.
In January 2009,
Governor Luis Fortuño laid off 30,000 government workers
in an effort to eliminate his government`s $3.3 billion deficit,
although this will increase the 12 percent unemployment rate. [Puerto Rico to
New America Media, by Teo Ballvé,
Just what America needs—more
bankrupt states with astronomically high
In the back of Fortuño`s mind must
be the slight possibility that, as a state, Puerto Rico might
qualify for a
U.S Treasury bailout, which it would be unlikely to
receive as a Commonwealth.
Some statehood detractors have high
visibility in Congress.
In remarks from the House floor,
Gutierrez said that he could support statehood if Puerto Rico
field an Olympic
keep Spanish as its main language and
retain other aspects of its identity.
According to Gutierrez,
"Maybe these 4 million American citizens don`t want to become a
state because they love their language; because they love their
culture; because they love their idiosyncrasies; because they
love applauding their Olympic team…because so many
Miss Universes come from Puerto
Statehood? No thanks, says Gutierrez,
by Katherine Skiba,
Chicago Tribune, May 2, 2010]
The English language issue Gutierrez
referenced is critical to the statehood debate.
An effort by U.S. Rep. Paul Broun
grade: A+), to amend H.R. 2499 to stipulate
that any newly formed state mandate English as its official
language of government operations was defeated in the House
Natural Resources Committee on a 13-to-24 vote, split along
partisan lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.
Eventually, however, the House
adopted a meaningless amendment which stated that any official
language requirements of the federal government will also apply
to Spanish-speaking Puerto Rico as they do to the other 50
As a press release from
the Washington, D.C.-based national non-profit, non-partisan
organization noted that since English is not the official
language of the United States, the amendment is merely a
“This was a stunning setback for maintaining English as the
common tongue that unites Americans—especially when polls reveal
that 9 of 10 of Americans want English to be the official
language of government operations and 30 states have adopted
laws to that effect.”
"Democrats and Republican supporters of statehood know that
Puerto Ricans would never vote for statehood if they knew they
would have to give up Spanish to be admitted to the Union. So
they desperately are trying to sweep the language issue under
"No territory operating
in a language other than English has ever been admitted as a
After H.B 2499 passed the House, a
preliminary hearing at the
Senate Committee for Natural Resources and Energy
was held to gather testimony.
Among those present were the
following Puerto Rican contingent:
Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi;
President of the Popular Democratic Party, Héctor Ferrer;
President of the Independence Party, Rubén Berríos and Governor
One anonymous attendee confided in
me that the Senate questioning of the Puerto Ricans was “hostile”. No further
proceedings have been scheduled.
The obvious question: why House
Republicans would vote in favor of Puerto Rican statehood when
the net result will inevitably be
more Democrats in Congress?
fresh from his betrayal of patriotic immigration reformers
during the Bush amnesty wars, is one of Puerto Rican statehood`s
biggest champions. His rationale:
“As a conservative who believes in the power of
self-determination and of individual liberty, I believe the 4
million American citizens in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
should be able to voice their opinions about Puerto Rico`s
relationship to the United States, although the ultimate
determination of that fate rests with this Congress, and I am
pleased to stand in a long line of Republicans who have taken
that view. Every Republican President for the last 50 years has
been committed to self-determination and democracy for the
American citizens in Puerto Rico.”
(See Pence`s speech
I have a different take on Pence and
other like-minded Republican panderers. They think that being
pro-Puerto Rican statehood, in defiance of all the evidence that
neither Puerto Ricans nor Americans favor it, is a cheap
opportunity to demonstrate their pro-Hispanic disposition.
But let me boil down its
consequences for you.
Obama admits to being
“open” to Puerto
Rican statehood. He`s appointed
La Raza operative
currently known as the White House Director of Intergovernmental
Affairs, as co-chair of the
President`s Task Force on Puerto Rico`s Status.
The goal of Puerto Rican statehood
is nothing as lofty like
“self determination” or
it is to leveraging Congress with as many Democrats as possible,
to keep the Obama agenda grinding along and crushing whatever
opposition the Republicans may mount along the way.
What better reasons could there be
to oppose Puerto Rican statehood?
Why not let all Americans vote on
this subversive proposal?
We are the ones who will pay the
him] is a California native
who recently fled the state because of over-immigration,
over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He
has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the
growth rate stable. A
long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School,
Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It
currently appears in the