Congress Preps for Vote on Puerto Rico’s Statehood (or Independence) – Opinion

A bill, which is not widely discussed in the media cycle, is being considered by the House. It will be put to a vote next Wednesday. This bill may change both the electoral and physical landscapes of the United States.

On Wednesday, the bill was marked up in committee as the Puerto Rico Status Act. It would allow the Puerto Rican population to exercise their right to vote for statehood if it is passed by Congress. It’s not a new initiative, but what is new is that this bill provides another option: Independence.

There are three choices in this bill that Puerto Ricans would vote on regarding their territory’s future with America including statehood, independence, and “sovereignty in free association with the United States.”

Under the bill’s third option, Puerto Rico would have “full authority and responsibility over its citizenship and immigration laws” but would also simultaneously allow for Puerto Ricans born before independence day to retain their citizenship.

Puerto Ricans not living in the United States but who have the right to free association could be naturalized as American citizens.

Children born to Puerto Rican citizens and their children would also be considered American citizens. This would last for “the duration of the first agreement” of free association, but that could be indefinite.

The bill has been pushed enthusiastically by Democrats, sometimes bypassing Republican input. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was also a part of the effort, raising concerns that poison pills could be included in the legislation to dissuade Republican support. However, while Republicans may not get everything they’d like in the bill, there is potential there for the GOP to capitalize on.

AOC seems to be more concerned with Puerto Rico’s independence than its statehood. It seems that she thinks offering Puerto Rico statehood is as colonialist and as important as keeping it as a territory.

Socially, Puerto Rican Democrats have been more conservative than Democratic mainland voters. Many of the leaders they have elected have also been conservative. Interview with Luis Fortuno (ex-guvernor) about statehood was possible in June.

The fear among Republicans has always been that a Hispanic-dominant territory becoming a state would instantly be a blue state, but that’s not always how the island votes. What’s more, as I’ve pointed out, it’s not like Hispanic voters are currently a lock for Democrats — in fact, the polling indicates the opposite. And Republicans who have gotten solid support from Hispanic voters — Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio, and even Donald Trump — all support the statehood movement.

Regardless of the politics of the issue, it’s far past time for the United States to either admit Puerto Rico or let it go. The bill may lead to changes in policy, which will allow the Puerto Ricans to make an informed decision.

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