Claim Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the United States of America

by | May 14, 2019 | Opinion | Comments

By: Alec Young

Puerto Rico’s possibility of statehood is not a new topic nor is it such a priority for governmental leaders. Puerto Rico has been on the back burner for almost its whole life as a territory. In the recent political climate, Puerto Rican officials have repeatedly demanded answers from Congress or acted in the way of change but to no avail. With the recent devastation of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has scrambled to rebuild and get life back on track. Florida Representative Darren Soto recently unveiled a plan that would finally allow Puerto Rico to become a state. Although uplifting, it reflects strong support in favor of Puerto Rico becoming a state, it was an “absolute no” from President Trump. With this inaction and uncertainty, Puerto Rico is in territorial limbo and claiming statehood seems just out of reach for supporters. Why is this important you ask? Puerto Rico in this territorial limbo is the most costly option for all for the country. Both Congress and the president must take action and claim Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the United States of America.

Puerto Rico’s performance in Latin America is noteworthy in comparison to its neighbors, however, it is still poorer than the poorest state in America, which is Mississippi. Right now Mississippi’s unemployment rate is 8.8% and the poverty line is 21.5% whereas Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate is at 9.3% and the poverty rate is at 45%. Puerto Rico became US territory over a hundred years ago, concluding the Spanish-American War. After becoming a territory Puerto Rico saw its tourism industry boom, which enabled it to become one of the most competitive economies in Latin America. However well Puerto Rico was doing, it still faced some problems that were not its fault. Over the years there has been growing unrest from the American citizens living in Puerto Rico. The reason for this is due to negligence on behalf of Congress. In 1993, a local referendum said that 93% of US citizens do not support the current territorial status. Puerto Rico has tried in 1988, 1993, and 1997 to get some sort of resolution from Congress but their cries fell on deaf ears. No resolution came from several attempts to discuss resolutions with Congress. Meanwhile, many Puerto Ricans have endured an economic depression since 2006 following the expiration of section 936 of the internal revenue code, which allowed corporations to send their earnings to their parent company at any time without paying federal taxes. After this, Puerto Rico managed to fend off inflation for the past decade. All of Puerto Rico’s economic complications have come from an unstable political system that is in place and will continue to worsen through inaction.

Puerto Rico needs to become a state so security and prosperity become a reality for the future of the United States. Having a state in Latin America would be beneficial for the US government and its citizens. The Treasury could see a benefit of $50 million if Puerto Rico entered the federal tax income system; moreover, Congress acknowledging Puerto Rico as a state would be empowering to all Hispanics living in America. It would be a symbol of unity, where Congress demonstrates sincere concern on widespread issues that arise in the Hispanic community. If Puerto Rico remains in territorial limbo it will be one of the most costly and ineffective decisions for the country. Congress’ inactivity only propels this issue further into disparity. There is so much opportunity that Puerto Rico can offer if granted statehood. Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state in America would symbolize a new era where unification becomes the main focal point in politics. Congressional leaders and the president can solidify America truly as a “melting pot” in history books and forever change the landscape for Hispanics that live in the United States of America.