- Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Since 1917, to be precise.
- Puerto Rico matters in U.S. elections. Residents of Puerto Rico can’t vote in presidential elections, but they can vote in primaries. What’s more, people of Puerto Rican heritage are now the second largest group in the Hispanic community in the mainland U.S. and an influential swing vote in the swing state of Florida.
- Americans on the mainland hold Puerto Rico’s debt. The people currently holding Puerto Rico’s junk-rated bonds are increasingly mainland hedge funds hoping that their risky investments pay off in a significant way.
- The “evisceration of the middle class,” says the Huffington Post. Puerto Rico is dealing with the loss of manufacturing jobs, growing distance between haves and have-nots, unemployment, and other economic woes that people on the mainland worry about, too.
- Washington could do more to help. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, so Washington can’t completely ignore it. As presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has stated, “[T]his is a domestic obligation of ours. [Puerto Rico] is not another country.”
We can add five more reasons:
- Historically, Americans don’t impose laws on people who don’t have a voice in making them. We have never accepted that for ourselves or for others around the world.
- Morally, equality is a fundamental value in the United States. Our own history has shown that equality can’t be achieved piecemeal. As then-President Clinton said of Puerto Rico’s position, “this is not primarily about Puerto Rico, but about the rest of us. What are our values? What is our culture? How can we make one America in a world and a nation ever more diverse?”
- Legally, the United States congress has the power and the responsibility to address Puerto Rico’s status under the Constitution’s Territory clause, which says, “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.”
- Militarily, Puerto Rico has had an extraordinary high military participation since first becoming a territory of the United States. Soldiers from Puerto Rico cannot vote for their Commander in Chief, and they deserve better from the country they serve.
- Economically, the problems in Puerto Rico are driving many residents to the mainland, where it becomes impossible for Washington or their new states to ignore them. There are now more people of Puerto Rican heritage on the mainland than there are on the island.
Washington, and the people of the United States, cannot ignore the fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico.