This fall, Puerto Rico could become the 51st state of the Union, with “rights, benefits and responsibilities equal to the rest of the States of the Union.” The President’s Report on Puerto Rico says, “If Puerto Rico became a State, citizens of Puerto Rico would be entitled to full representation in Congress, would be permitted to participate in Presidential elections, and would be eligible to receive Federal economic assistance identical to that granted to citizens of other States.”
Statehood is one of the options on the ballot for November, but the Report reminds us that “Congress has the ultimate authority over admission of States, and it could impose requirements on Puerto Rico prior to admission.”
If Puerto Rico became a state, residents of Puerto Rico would share identical rights and responsibilities with U.S. citizens in the fifty states. Puerto Ricans would be obligated to pay federal income taxes in addition to the payroll taxes they currently pay, but they would also qualify for tax credits that other U.S. citizens and companies can take advantage of today. Puerto Ricans would be able to vote for president and have full democratic representation in Congress, quintessential elements of the American experience that Puerto Rican veterans have sought with special fervor over the years. Puerto Rico’s economic position currently compares unfavorably with the 50 states in the Union, and many Puerto Ricans have left their homes in recent years for opportunities on the mainland where they enjoy more economic opportunities and full democratic rights.