by Maximilian Eyle
Puerto Rico has a confusing relationship with the rest of the United States. It is classified as an unincorporated territory, not a state. While this offers certain advantages, it also comes with a high cost. For example, Puerto Ricans do not have to pay federal income tax. However, they can only vote in presidential primaries – not in general elections for the federal government. This means that they do not have voting representation in congress. But because Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, they can vote if they move and become residents of a U.S. state.
There is currently a bill in congress to make Puerto Rico a state, introduced by Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez – Colon, Puerto Rico’s non-voting federal representative. About half of Americans agree that Puerto Rico should be made a state. This number grew after Hurricane Maria due to increased sympathy for the island. Unfortunately, a similar percentage of Americans do not even know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.
Many of Puerto Rico’s political leaders, including the governor, support statehood. Many federal representatives from around the United States do as well, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi. However, the people of Puerto Rico are more divided. A recent poll showed that only about half support statehood, though it is the most popular option. The remaining half is divided between remaining a territory, achieving independence, and simply not having an opinion.
The discussion about PR’s future as a state or a territory remains controversial and may not be resolved soon. What we can agree on is that the current relationship between the island and the federal government is a problematic one. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria proved that. Whether or not Puerto Rico becomes a state, it is imperative that we strengthen the bond between the island and the rest of the U.S.
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Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.