According to The Latin American Tribune, the US Senate on Wednesday (February 12) received for the first time a bill to render Puerto Rico the 51st state amid an economic crisis that many blame in part on contention over the island’s political status.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), establishes the mechanisms whereby the US would admit Puerto Rico as a state, assuming the island’s citizens vote to approve the idea in a binding referendum.
Heinrich is a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over the status of Puerto Rico.
The bill proposes asking the island’s residents: “Do you want Puerto Rico to be admitted as a State of the United States? Yes _____ No ______.”
If the “yes” vote wins, the president will have 180 days to submit the legislation to Congress according to which Puerto Rico would be admitted as a state.
Heinrich’s bill is modeled on a measure submitted to the House of Representatives by Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress, Pedro Pierluisi, leader of the pro-statehood PNP.
COMMENT: Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who heads Puerto Rico’s other main party, the PPD, wants the island to remain a US commonwealth, though with enhanced scope for self-government.
Island residents were granted US citizenship in 1917, but they cannot vote in presidential elections, although Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can vote in presidential elections.
Since 1952, the island has been a Free Associated State of the United States, an unincorporated territory with broad internal autonomy.
There are many who are convinced that the limitations of commonwealth status is the main thing responsible for the crisis in which Puerto Rico is mired, a situation that was aggravated over the past week by the downgrading of its debt to junk bond status.
Recently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressed his support for statehood for Puerto Rico, just as Vice President Joe Biden has done.
Politically, we should be very clear in the Obama Administration's bringing up US statehood for Puerto Rico at this time: It all boils down to votes, particularly considering that 75% of Hispanics voted Democratic in the 2012 presidential election.
If Harry Reid gets his way, and "rams through" a majority of Puerto Rican citizens who vote for statehood, potentially the Democratic Party will derive a huge statistical advantage in the November 8, 2016 presidential election, potentially tipping the scales in favor of the Democrats.
Six reasons why Puerto Rico should NOT become the 51st state include:
1. The Puerto Rico Police Department has had for several years a homicide rate double that of the Chicago, which has the highest crime rate on the US Mainland;
2. The Puerto Rico Police Department has had a history of human rights violations against its own citizens and has been investigated by the US Department of Justice for misconduct;
3. See the below link:
4. Puerto Rico's economy is best described as America’s own Third World country. It has a per capita income of $15,203, which is less than 50% of the US' poorest state, Mississippi, where it’s $31,046;
5. Unemployment in Puerto Rico is 15.4%, virtually double that of the US Mainland; and
6. Do US citizens really want experienced Puerto Rican murderers on the streets of the US Mainland, with freedom of movement?