There are facts and then there is political reality. As Americans, we are very well aware that all the facts in the world will never suppress politics. In the end the perception that politics create always wins. I won’t go into examples to prove this, since American politics has several of them, with Madison, Wisconsin being the most current manifestation of this.
So my attention now turns to the Puerto Rico Democracy Act, H.R. 2499, which was passed by the US House of Representatives last April. As a Puerto Rican-born American citizen, this issue is dear to my heart, and I plan to cover it in my blog because it speaks to issues of self-determination, government, and Puerto Rican identity—a paradox to say the least.
Last night, I presented my reasons as to why the US colony of Puerto Rico will never become the 51st state. As I suspected, the charges of me being a tool of the Castro regime and a Puerto Rican socialist infiltrator started appearing in my Twitter stream and in the places where I share my blogs on Facebook, since I did make it a point to post the blog on several pages covering Puerto Rican politics, such as the Puerto Rico Libre page. The admins of that page also shared it with other pro-statehood pages, such as the one that promotes the Puerto Rican Statehood Party. On these pro-statehood pages, it is common that if you post, you start getting called names like communists and socialists. Sound familiar, anyone? Yes, pro-statehooders like to drink their tea, too.
Nonetheless, I did come across a Facebook note that many pro-statehood groups shared called Facts Supporting Statehood. The note lists 12 “facts” that conclude why statehood for Puerto Rico is the one and only option for the island. But like I said, there are facts, and there is political reality. Here is my analysis of each point. (EDITOR’S NOTE: I did not edit any of the notes facts and have run them as they appear in the Facebook note, even with its stylistic errors in English grammar.)
FACT 1: “Statehood applies the full Constitution of the USA, giving full rights to the US Citizens residing in Puerto Rico.”
REALITY 1: The current act, as worded, is a non-binding resolution, meaning that even if Puerto Ricans do indeed chose statehood, the US government can still deny them this right.
FACT 2: “The States of the Union have their US Citizenship and keep their State Identity, so we would never stop being Puerto Ricans. It’s like people born in Texas are Texans, people born in New York are New Yorkers, people born in California are Californians, people born in Washington are Washingtonians, people born in Hawaii are Hawaiians, people born in Alaska are Alaskans and so on, and they’re all US Citizens. The same way, we can continue being Puerto Ricans and US Citizens just like now (but having the full rights of the Citizenship when we step in the islands of Puerto Rico). Also, the States even keep their State Flag and Anthems (so we won’t loose our flag nor our anthem either).”
REALITY 2: Last time I checked, Puerto Ricans have their own culture and traditions, formed by 500 years of Spanish, Latin American, African, indigenous, and American influence. I highly doubt that Washingtonian culture is on the same level as Puerto Rican culture. Never mind those strong cultures and identities of states like Delaware, Rhode Island, North Dakota, and Idaho. The reality is that Puerto Ricans will lose their cultural connections in time if it were to become a state. As for Texas? Heck, last time I heard, Texas was to secede from the Union. But what about the state flags and anthems? Sure, states have flags but do they have state anthems? Quick, tell me the state anthem of Massachusetts. Maybe it’s this one by the Dropkick Murphys?
FACT 3: “The USA is a union of various cultures and nationalities with the purpose of defense and common currency for the wellbeing and greater good of their citizens. The USA has no official language, nor official culture because the language and culture is decided and protected by each State, not by the union. Therefore, we won’t loose our Spanish Language nor our Puerto Rican culture. Our two official languages already are: English and Spanish. Just like the State of New Mexico has English and Spanish, Louisiana has English, Spanish and French, California has English and Spanish, Hawaii has English and Hawaiian, and so on, as official languages. The issues of language and culture are local State matters and responsibilities, NOT Federal.”
REALITY 3: The whole culture thing is being called into question these days, especially with laws being passed in places like Arizona that are seen as anti-Latino. As for English being the official language of the United States, the U.S. English movement based out of Washington has been pumping money into achieving their goals. New Mexico and Louisiana are the only official bilingual states in the Union, so claims that California has English and Spanish as official languages is FALSE. As for Hawaii, their Constitution states: “English and Hawaiian shall be the official languages of Hawaii, except that Hawaiian shall be required for public acts and transactions only as provided by law.” And where is the “and so on?” Last time we checked, 28 states have official English laws and more are coming.
FACT 4: “Some people say Congress won’t allow PR to become a State because Puerto Ricans mostly speak Spanish than English, and we descend only from Spaniards, Tainos, and Africans. It is FALSE to say Puerto Rican blood is only of Taínos, Spaniards, and Africans ( thanks to the “Royal Decree of Graces” promoted by Spain during it’s Imperial Rule in PR ). The truth is that the ethnic origin is not a requisite to become a State, and nowhere in the US Constitution states that Statehood is only acceptable for territories of Caucasian origin. For example, the State of Florida was a territory of Hispanic population in 1821 when it became a State. In 1911, Arizona was admitted to the Union having a majority of indigenous population. And the same happened to the States that were Mexican territories before.”
REALITY 4: Caucasian origin? I don’t get that. But nonetheless, let’s ignore that one and focus on the reality: The states that were Mexican territories became states AFTER the U.S. defeated Mexico. But let’s follow the logic in Fact 4 and focus on Arizona: the territory was given to the US after the win over Mexico, Arizona declared independence, American troops took Arizona back and eventually it became a state in the early 1900s. Arizona became a state for economic reasons and because the US needed its resources. What does Puerto Rico have to offer to the US in the 21st century? PS: Arizona is having its own Latino issues right now.
FACT 5: “Some people say that Congress won’t give Statehood to Puerto Rico because ‘if they wanted so, they would’ve given us Statehood over a century ago’. The truth is that we don’t have Statehood (or Independence) because Puerto Ricans have elected to maintain the current Commonwealth Status. It is our responsibility to make the first decision to change our status and then Congress shall make a decision based on the decision made by the majority of the residents in Puerto Rico. That is democracy. If Congress or the President impose Statehood or Independence not counting with the support of Puerto Rico’s population that would be and act of dictatorship, against their own Constitution. Fortunately, the USA is a nation of democracy and they respect our decisions on whatever we want to be. Also, our last three presidents publicly said that they personally support Statehood for Puerto Rico, but it is up to our people to demand it and they’ll respect whatever our decision is. The Congress shall approve our petition, and in case they ignore it, we can proceed with the Tennessee Plan by which we would get Statehood anyways, just like happened with Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, and Alaska.”
REALITY 5: Basically what the pro-statehooders are saying is that even if Congress does not agree, Puerto Rico could bypass the will of the US Congress and institute a Tennessee Plan that was developed in the mid-19th century. Without getting into much specifics, Puerto Rico, if it did choose statehood in the next plebiscite, would in fact not need approval from Congress and would force the US government of the 21st century to make it part of the Union. Do you really think that the current Republican leadership and the Tea Party populist organizations would allow for a bunch of Latinos to overrule the US Congress? Pause for a minute and think about that. Have you absorbed that. For this point, I have to agree with Glenn Beck, which is almost never. Hit it, Glenn.
FACT 6: “Our economy won’t be any worse with Statehood. And taxes we would pay as a state would be almost the same of what we pay for I.R.S. under our current system. Sales Tax is only paid at State Level, not Federal Level, which means Sales Tax would rely on our local government. There’s no such thing as Federal Sales Tax.”
REALITY 6: For this one, I turn to my current state of Taxassuchetts. Massachusetts is like a lot of states: not only do you pay state taxes, you also pay federal taxes. And what about New York City, where you pay city taxes as well as state and federal taxes. Guess what? If Puerto Rico becomes a state and finds a revenue shortage, what do you think politicians will do? You got it. Raise state taxes. Welcome to the reality.
FACT 7: “Puerto Rico contributes to the nation in military service more than 25 States and all of the US Territories. According to the Department of Defense, PR is amongst the first 15 States and all US Territories recruiting soldiers.”
REALITY 7: So, wait a minute, pro-statehooders want Puerto Ricans to become a state so we can send more soldiers into the armed forces and possible more armed conflicts? Have you read about the reason why Puerto Ricans became US citizens in 1917? Yes, the US was about to enter World War I and needed fresh recruits. Here’s a great idea, instead of sending our own, let’s make Puerto Ricans US citizens.
FACT 8: “If Puerto Rico becomes a State, according to a study of the University of Stanford, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) will triplicate, because Puerto Rico would adquire some constitutional powers that would benefit our state and our citizenship, a power only States have. Today, Puerto Rico’s GDP is even lower than the poorest State of the USA (Mississippi) because of its territorial condition.”
REALITY 8: In this economy, pro-statehooders are saying that the island’s GDP would triple if it were to become a state. Have they read what the Lexington Institute is saying about the financial impact of Puerto Rico as it becomes a state? Here is a quote from their findings:
Puerto Rico, which received $18 billion in direct federal expenditures in FY08, has a population with a median national income of $17,741, nearly a third below that for the United States. While eligibility for many major federal social programs is the same in both jurisdictions, others, like the Food Stamp Program, including different eligibility requirements. This would like result in increased federal expenditures should statehood be achieved, but a lack of comparable data makes cost projections for such changes difficult.
What would be the potential costs and implications should statehood for Puerto Rico result in establishing a Canadian-style system of bilingualism in the United States? Through a series of calculations and estimates, this report arrives at a projected total cost of $25.661 billion, or $85 per American.
That doesn’t sound like tripling the GDP of Puerto Rico to me.
FACT 9: By becoming a State, we would have the right to elect 2 Senators for the Senate of the USA, and a number of Representatives that will be determinated according to our population density in order to have a well balanced representation of our citizenship.
US Constitution, 1st Ammendment, Section 2: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
(Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.) (The previous sentence in parentheses was modified by the 14th Amendment, section 2.) The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five and Georgia three.
US Constitution, 1st Ammendment, Section 3: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, (chosen by the Legislature thereof,) (The preceding words in parentheses superseded by 17th Amendment, section 1.) for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote….”
REALITY 9: This one rankles Republicans in Washington and beyond. I will let a Republican explain the reality of this one:
Yeah, Republicans would love the opportunity to have 2 more Democratic senators and 6 more Democratic congressman. Hey, add a Socialist or Independentista in once a while too.
FACT 10: We won’t loose our sovereignty. Each State of the Union is sovereign of itself, just like an independent republic, with the difference that our sovereignty would be covered and protected by the US Constitution which gives us the right of democracy and to be free citizens. Our sovereignty would be represented in Congress by our Representatives, Senators, and speakers in the White House, and we would also have right to elect our President and our State Governor.
REALITY 10: I believe there was a thing called The Civil War 150 years ago? Yeah, try to be an independent state in the US these days. Umm, that is not a great place to explore. Just look at Texas.
FACT 11: “Thousands of Puerto Ricans have given their lives defending the USA, our country, and thus Puerto Rico itself, in battlefield as US Citizens since 1899. Many of our soldiers demand Statehood for Puerto Rico . Also, many Puerto Ricans have worked and many still work in NASA, and have even gone to space as US Citizens.”
REALITY 11: Kind of repeating a previous fact, but we will not bring that up. Also, last time we checked Puerto Ricans became citizens in 1917 and not 1899. And yes, not all Puerto Rican soldiers supported statehood. Take Pedro Albizu Campos, the father of the Puerto Rican Independence movement. He was a US war veteran. No statehood support from him. Also, knowing that there is a strong NASA contingent of Puerto Ricans is comforting to know. Last time I checked NASA is having its own problems with the current government budget.
FACT 12: “Over a million of Puerto Ricans live in the states. Even a Puerto Rican descendant have become justice of the Supreme Court of the USA (Sonia Sotomayor). The 1st Hispanic and 3rd female justice of the Supreme Court of the USA. Our governor Luis G. Fortuño, born in Puerto Rico, has been elected President of the Council of State Governments. We are taking high roles in the nation today. Even a Puerto Rican have the possibility of becoming President of the United States of America if we reside in a current state for a certain period of time, but if Puerto Rico were a State, we wouldn’t have to move to another State to get that possibility.”
REALITY 12: A few things: first of all, the last thing the pro-statehooders want is to have Puerto Rican-born citizens vote in the plebiscite. It is very likely that mainlaind Puerto Ricans will vote for anything BUT statehood since they see Puerto Rico with romance and nostalgia. Think of the American Irish and Northern Ireland issue, or the Cuban exiles in Miami and Cuba. Also, sure, I am proud of Justice Sotomayor, but did you guys see the hearings? Do you think Republicans who voted against here were thrilled that she was Latina? And a Puerto Rican President? Huh? Certain US citizens call President Obama a socialist and a communist, imagine a Latino president? As for Governor Fortuño, being part of that Council of State Governments is really a powerful move. In the US. the federal government rules the country, and not a bunch of governors. Poll Americans about that organization and you will get blank stares.
So, to the pro-statehooders, keep sharing your facts and twisting the truth. But in the end, politics will push you aside.