Around New England

Give Puerto Ricans The Say On Whether To Become 51st State, Ayanna Pressley Says

April 17, 2021

Puerto Ricans should be able to decide whether to join the union as a state, said U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Dorchester).

Article IV, Section 3 of the United States Constitution states:  “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union …”

But Pressley says Puerto Ricans should make the call. She supports a measure (U.S. Senate Bill 865) that would create a “status convention” that could lead to a referendum asking if they want statehood, independence, a continuation of the current territorial status, or some other arrangement.

“It would give the people, not Congress, the ultimate decision of the political future of the island,” Pressley said Thursday, April 15, according to State House News Service.

Democrats see Puerto Rico as a reliably Democrat-supporting place that would likely send two Democrats to the U.S. Senate and perhaps five to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Some observers question how reliably Democratic the island of about 2.8 million be would be, noting that some elected officials in Puerto Rico identify as Republican and that cultural conservatives are strong enough to field a political party of their own.

Supporters of statehood note that Puerto Ricans have been under U.S. control since the Spanish-American War ended in 1900 and that they have been U.S. citizens since 1917, and argue that they deserve statehood if they want it.

The question is divisive on the island. Supporters want Puerto Rico to have more say in how it is governed and in the policies of the United States. Opponents on the island note that Puerto Ricans living on the island currently pay no federal incomes taxes, and that they’d have to if Puerto Rico were a state. Some Puerto Ricans want the island to become an independent country.

Opponents of statehood for Puerto Rico in the mainland United States say the island is too distant from the United States in miles and in culture to join the union.

Puerto Rico is about 1,000 miles southeast of Florida, which is the closest state to it. The island is farther away from the U.S. mainland than Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. It would be the only state in the Atlantic Time Zone (it currently observes Atlantic Standard Time, which is equivalent to Eastern Daylight Time, all year long). It would also be the only state where the vast majority of residents do not speak English.