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Jon Stewart: Can Climate Change Create an Opening for Puerto Rico Statehood?

Satirist Jon Stewart brought up the issue of Puerto Rico statehood in a report about climate change on The Daily Show last night.  Noting the specific challenges being faced by Florida and California – the danger of too much water in Florida and drought conditions in California – Stewart joked that the answer is to “condemn and destroy both states using explosives” and then added “Puerto Rico and Guam, you’re up.”

“Still gotta have 50,” Stewart noted.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, but momentum towards statehood has been building since Puerto Rican voters indicated in a 2012 local plebiscite that they no longer approved this territorial status.  More than 60% of all voters selected statehood as their preferred relationship with the United States when given a choice among statehood, independence, and Free Association (sovereign nationhood with close ties to the U.S., such as Palau).

Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917.  There are now roughly 3.5 million people living in Puerto Rico but 5 million people of Puerto Rican descent living in the 50 states.  In 2009, then-retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, serving as a substitute judge on the Federal Third Circuit, wrote in a legal opinion that “[A]lthough Puerto Rico is not a state in the federal Union, ‘it . . . seem[s] to have become a State within a common and accepted meaning of the word.’ ”

The statement by Stewart can be found at minute 2:05 of the show.

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