Another Puerto Rico statehood referendum?

The political status of Puerto Rico already has come before the Puerto Ricans in plebescites in 1967, 1993 and 1998. The plurality position, but never the majority position, has always been for indefinitely maintaining the status quo of PR in place since 1898 – i.e., as a territory but not a state of the U.S., with U.S. citizenship for the people and right to live and work on the mainland, no voting representation in Congress, no Electoral College votes, subject to U.S. government but exempt from U.S. federal income tax – have I got all that right?

My guess is, this consistent result has been for the status quo because the Puerto Ricans want to keep their options open, and a plurality can see clearly that if PR ever becomes a state of the Union it will never be independent, and if it ever becomes independent it will never be a state.

Now a new bill is pending in the House for another referendum. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is split on the bill; the PR delegate is for it.

Statehood for PR would redefine America’s national identity, to some extent. Up to now, America has not included any equivalent of Quebec. Every state admitted hitherto – even Hawaii – first had an established majority or at least predominant-plurality of English-speaking Anglo-Americans. PR never will. It is too full up for large numbers of settlers or filibusterers, and has been since long before the U.S. annexed it. It is part of the Spanish-speaking Latin-Catholic cultural zone of the Western Hemisphere and it always will be.

Independence, OTOH, would . . . would what? I don’t see a downside for the U.S. What real strategic or economic use is PR to us? OTOH, it would be quite an economic disruption to the Puerto Ricans to suddenly have their U.S. federal welfare support cut off; it has been mentioned in previous threads on this topic that a lot of them, perhaps a majority, depend on welfare to live.

In any case, with everything else on Congress’ plate right now, the economic mess, Wall Street regulation reform, immigration reform, is this the time for another PR referendum?!

Another referendum isn’t going to co anything. It’ll just maintain the status quo.

Is the status quo going to be an option this time?

In the past,Puerto ricans were asked to choose from three options: Statehood, independence, or continuing commonwealth status. They always voted to remain a commonwealth.

Is remaining a commonwealth going to be an an option this time, or are the choices going to be limited to statehood and independence?

The story linked in the OP says:

BG beat me to it.

Constitutional status is the main issue in Puerto Rican politics, BTW. The three main political parties are:

New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico (pro-statehood).

Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico (historically pro-continued-commonwealth status; lately pro-“sovereignty” with PR as an associated republic).

Puerto Rican Independence Party (pro-independence)

The current governor, Luis Fortuno, is New Progressive, and the New Progressives contol both branches of the legislature.

It does sort of seem like a rig in favor of statehood which might only have plurality support, since I don’t see a real difference between “independence” and “sovereignty in association.” An independent PR is going to keep close ties to the United States regardless; if nothing else, millions of Puerto Ricans resident in the 50 states will assure that.

That’s true, but the fact that the NPP controls the legislature and the governor’s mansion doesn’t mean that a statehood vote would win.

It sounds like this might be a fairer vote than previous referenda - the two-round structure means that the status quo could only be maintained with genuine majority support.

If the PR delegate is for this vote, then I’m for it. If the Puerto Rican people want to maintain the status quo, that’s fine - but if not, then we haven’t the slightest right to force them to stay under US rule without a real say in US government. The consent of the governed is key, here.

That said - if PR were leaning against the status quo, I do think the US would be within its rights to say, “Well, we don’t want you as a state. It’s either commonwealth status or independence - your call, PR.” I can’t see how Puerto Rico has a right to statehood.

However, I don’t see any harm in having a Spanish-speaking state. It might be a bit of a pain to have to put more of our official documents in Spanish, but that’s a small price to pay for bringing another 3 million plus citizens into the full political life of the Republic. Our system of government does not rely upon any single language to function - merely the universal human desire for liberty and the rule of law. I’d welcome my fellow citizens from PR.

The Constitution mandates that Congress has to vote on admission, so obviously they’re not going to get in without a nod from the US.

I think the current law before the House of Reps sets up some sort of non-binding commitement for Congress to admit them if the referendum passes, though. The idea presumably being that its silly for Puerto Rico to go through the effort of holding a referendum on statehood just to have the US say “thanks but no thanks”.

Of course, they’re citizens already. So if PR becomes independent, do they remain U.S. citizens? Under the 14th Amendment they are, since they were born on U.S. territory. But what about their children born post-independence – are they U.S. citizens by virtue of having citizen parents?

Good question. I would think that the logical answer would be: no, residents of Puerto Rico lose U.S. citizenship (and gain citizenship in the new sovereign nation of Puerto Rico) at the official moment of the changeover.

Puerto Ricans permanently residing in the 50 states and DC are unaffected, except they now need to carry their passports to visit the island.

Should there be an effort to relocate Puerto Ricans who so chose, from the island to the US, prior to the changeover, to avoid stripping citizenship from them against their will?

I apologize if I missed wha twas clearly in the text. I asked, however, because it sure LOOKS like the purpose of the legislation is to push for statehood.

And that’s a VERY bad idea, unless a HUGE majority of Puerto Ricans are for it.

Suppose that, given a certain set of options, just enough Puerto Ricans vote for statehood. Bear in mind that: Puerto Rico still has a genuine, significant independence movement. They’re a minority, but they’re NOT going to disappear if Puerto Rico becomes a state. And their numbers COULD increase drastically if statehood turns out not to be such a great deal for Puerto Ricans.

Are you SURE there’ll never be a true, viable secessionist movement in Puerto Rico (unlike the joke of a secessionist movement that’s gotten so much attention in Texas)?

Let’s say that JUST enough Puerto Ricans vote for statehood, and Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state. Then, 15 years down the road, nationalism surges and Puerto Ricans want out.

I don’t think this is such a farfetched scenario, but by all means, tell me why, if you think it is.

Is a future U.S. President REALLY going to crush such a movement with troops, as Abe Lincoln did? Is “the Union” going to be held that sacrosanct again?

If Puerto Rico becomes a state wouldn’t they have to give up their Olympic team and membership and their membership in the Organization of Ibero-American States?

IIRC, Hong Kong kept their Olympic team after they rejoined China. So not necessarily, though I kinda suspect they would anyways.

Well, French Guiana is simultaneously a member of the South American Union and (as a department of France) the European Union.

Does anyone happen to have information on what Filipinos born since 1898 experienced in 1946? In terms of citizenship, I mean? It’s a precise parallel – the Philippines were an American territory from 1898-1935, a commonwealth 1935-46 (de jure only during the Japanese occupation, of course), and became an indepedent country in 1946. Did they lose American citizenship at independence, become dual citizens, or what?

It’s an interesting question, and I don’t have an exact answer, but keep in mind that simply being born in an area under US control doesn’t confer automatic citizenship. We’ve long had a situation where some people are “US Nationals” rather than “US Citizens” and citizenship, IIRC, was extend specifically to Puerto Ricans by an act of Congress. I vaguely recall citizenship only being conferred on Filipinos under specific circumstances (such as US military service), but I don’t have a cite for that, so I could be misremembering.

If it’s a two-step process as outlined, it’s obviously a rig for putting statehood out front. Despite the control of the gov at the moment, there is no way this has majority support.
The really crazy thing is, the structure might force independence on PR as well. There is such a thing as a law of unintended consequences, and what the obvious pro-statehood slant of the structure of this vote has means that the folks promoting it think the middle-of-the-road majority would lean to statehood if forced. That’s not a good assumption.
First of all, people tend to be loyal to where they were born. Wotta surprise. Secondly, I hadn’t been back in a while, but went back last year because of family stuff. I was struck by the power of the pro-independence side; it was far more popular than it had been the last time I’d been there. OTOH, my family comes from the part of PR farthest from San Juan, and not just geographically, so it might have been a distorted view.
Still, I don’t think either statehood or independence can command a majority, but if this referendum’s stupid structure forces the issue, the result could be very bad if either alternative wins by only a narrow amount.
Somebody needs to remember Occam’s razor, and do a simple one-time vote on all three alternatives.
Also, these referendums should be held regularly (a regular periodicity that keeps it on off election years only, makes it less frequent than officeholder votes, but frequent enough to keep a running pulse on sentiment), if only to keep the air clear.

Filipinos pre-1946, with exceptions as mentioned above, were US “nationals”, a class of people “under the protection of the US”, but not full citizens-by-birth as we 'Ricans are (which did require an Act of Congress to be so), so there was no issue about citizenship rights.

As to the issue of referenda, the '67, '93 and '98 votes were local initiatives, essentially understood by everyone familiar with island politics as efforts by whoever was in office at the time to rally the base. In all three cases the eventual result was nothing happened, in '98 the winner (by a majority!) was “none of the above”.

There has never been a Congressionally-passed act to call a binding, or at least “with the implied commitment to follow up”, multiple choice, vote. In the early 50s we were given a Yes/No, take it or take it, vote on whether to remain under direct colonial rule or adopt the current “commonwealth” limited Home Rule. The closest to a multiple choice process happened during the Bush41 years where a reasonably decent proposal passed the House only to die in a 10-10 Committee deadlock in the Senate. In '98 another attempt squeaked by the House by a 1-vote margin and the Senate limited itself to issuing a sense-of-the-Senate resolution about how nice it would be if we made up our minds. In '64-'72 and again in '99-2008 the task was assigned to a White House committee and all those got us was a lot of paper to light our grills with.
The degree of integration of Puerto Rico as a polity and of Puerto Ricans as individuals, to the US economic and political system, is such that the only things that would REALLY change locally would be the election of a congressional representation and Electors, and the imposition of federal personal income tax. I mean, other than not filing a 1040 most years that I have no income other than local wages, I’ve been through everything in relation to the Federal Government that I’d be through if I lived in, say, Maryland my whole life. Our banks are Federal Reserve and FDIC members, my car has to comply with EPA standards, I registered for Selective Service at 18, my US passport has no asterisks, etc. In turn, at the national level virtually all the changes woudl involve those extra 8 seats at the Capitol and the College and the reapportioning of both appropriations and tax responsibility. In virtually every other aspect of everyday functioning vis-a-vis the interaction of PR with the rest of the American polity there would [need to] be no change.

Oh, and nothing would have to get printed in Spanish that is not already being printed in Spanish. Give ya one guess as to in what language my US Census forms were printed in earlier this year.

Notice the parenthetical “need to”, however. As one can see by the various amendments proposed in the course of the current legislation, and as happened with various other admissions, a number of our Congressbeings would love to get all clever load up the Terms of Statehood with hoops such as that English be adopted as language of local schools or that all people who claim to be Puerto Rican no matter where resident be allowed to participate in the vote, mostly to pander to their hometown constituencies and never mind if it ruins the bill.

The argument that it is a sneak-statehood bill is premised on the idea that if in round one “keeping the statu quo” is defeated, as would be expected by adding statehooders + nationalists (both of the full independentist and sovereigntist flavors), then in the next round of statehood v. real independence v. “association”, statehood would, say the opponents, win by default as the refuge of everyone in the electorate who is pro-close-US-ties, which is assumed (justifiably) to be a majority.

This argument neglects the small fact that nothing in the proposed Act does, or could, bind the hands of Congress to force the concession of statehood if they don’t think the request is timely or they just get the wrong vibe about it. A binding commitment to admit would have to come in the form of an Enabling Act and Act of Admission (or just jump straight to the Act of Admission) wherein the Congress and the Prez would say, this territory WILL be admitted as a State once reasonable terms X, Y and Z are complied with, effective ABC days after it is so certified. Admission being by its very nature a Political Matter there should be no standing for anyone to argue that HR 2499 can “sneak statehood”. As it stands Nancy Pelosi could just say, “So, 65% of people wanted to change the statu quo, and on the second round 55% want statehood. How lovely. Not good enough, I’m afraid, better luck next time. Here’s $5 billion in school construction earmarks to soothe your pain.”

The process would NOT favor independence since almost immediately after such a vote the procommonwealth faction would loudly proclaim that 41 of those 45% against statehood came from their side, and from supporters of a status of enhanced autonomy but Oh Dear God Don’t Leave Us Alone With Chavez Next Door. Independence has more visible and louder public expression than its real electoral prowess. What there is in PR is a strong streak of sociocultural “identity” politics bit that exists even within the pro-statehood movement.

For some time now PR is undergoing a similar process of revolt-of-the-hardcore-base as is happening with US parties, and the usual moderates in prostatehood and procommonwealth leadership are facing pressure from True Believers getting elected who are calling them out: When the heck ARE we going to move in the direction of the (Full Statehood/Fully Autonomous Rule, per the respective party) that you have been promising us, or do you all intend to just hold on to your jobs running what there is (and not even fixing what ails it)?

(“Because, of course, if only we went to DC and showed how True American our hearts are, the poor benighted Congressmen would see The Light and we’d be given statehood in an eyeblink, for sure. The only reason nothing happens is everyone is taking money from “Them” to let it slide. The only reason we don’t win votes is activist judges make us give multiple choices instead of Commonwealth: Sucks or Blows? Vote for us the True Statehooders.” Yay.:rolleyes:)

So these efforts make for a great show to go back home to PR… or even better* to your Congressional district with a large Latino population* (hello, Mr. Gutierrez, Ms. Ross-Lehtinen), and tell them how we are really going to DC and demanding, I tell you, demanding, to be heard! My forecast is whatever’s left of HR 2499 is likely to die in the US Senate of 41-vote disease, and it ain’t gona be all 'Pubs either. Then we’ll have another locally-organized straw vote, it’ll be another plurality squeaker with no real majority that will be used as a referendumn on the government in office.

I’ve been at this business too long… can you tell?:cool: