Puerto Rican Statehood - The Vote No
Every once in a while, the question comes up in a formal way, and Puerto Ricans on the island are asked to vote to voice their opinion. Usually the vote goes something like 49% for statehood, 49% for status quo and 2% for independence. It seems that the question is going to be called again.
What would I vote?
Well, first I'd say I should have absolutely no right to vote because I don't have a primary residence on the island. I live in Connecticut. People who aren't on the island shouldn't have a vote. Period. Why? Aren't they just as Puerto Rican as those on the island? Sure. But they won't be living with the decision. I'm just as American as any Texan, but I don't live there and shouldn't have a vote on what affects them only.
But what advice would I give my friends and family who do live there? I have two pieces of advice:
1 - The citizens of Puerto Rico should look at the history of what has happened to native populations in each of the 50 states. For instance, did native Hawaiians maintain control of their island in 1959? Are the Eskimo people (Inuits?) the powers of Alaska? Puerto Ricans should ask whether Native Americans or even Mexican descendants benefitted by the statehood votes in California or Texas or New Mexico or Arizona or Colorado or Nevada or any other state. Will Puerto Ricans be able to retain control of the island upon becoming a state? If the answer is yes, then go for it. It would be lovely to be the first state out of 51 to have the native population retain control after statehood.
2 - Realize that as soon as Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state, there will be a big push (bigger than in previous years) to make English the official language of the United States. Only a tiny percentage of Puerto Rico's 4 million residents speak English fluently enough to do well if, for instance, court proceedings and contracts were all in English. Of course, the 1st amendment might protect the right of Puerto Ricans to have their contracts and laws be in whatever language they choose, but I'd rather see an amendment to the US Constitution that says that "Congress shall make no law concerning an official language for the United States." When that happens, there will be a real protection for Puerto Ricans.
Notice that Puerto Rico would be one of the bottom three states in terms of economics. There's a benefit, then for the people of Puerto Rico. For the first time, they'd be eligible for welfare. There'd also be some more monies poured into the island to bring their schools and infrastructure up to par (though they're generally not so bad now).
Right now, I'd be for the status quo. Hopefully, with one more generation, Puerto Rico will be ready to hold its own.
I love the island and I love America. Just not sure they're right for each other at this time.