Some leaders in the Puerto Rican community claim that Puerto Rico voters need more information about the various status options open to them. Here is an explanation of what statehood, one of the three viable options, would mean for Puerto Rico. The paragraph below is the way statehood was described on the 2012 referendum ballot.
(I) Statehood: Puerto Rico should be admitted as a state of the United States of America so that all United States citizens residing in Puerto Rico may have rights, benefits, and responsibilities equal to those enjoyed by all other citizens of the states of the Union, and be entitled to full representation in Congress and to participate in the Presidential elections, and the United States Congress would be required to pass any necessary legislation to begin the transition into Statehood. If you agree, mark here:
If Puerto Rico were to become a State, it would automatically be treated as any other State under federal law, including the U.S. Constitution. U.S. citizenship for native Puerto Ricans would become constitutionally protected. Proportional representation in Congress and the right to vote for president would similarly be extended to Puerto Ricans through the Constitution. Any of the myriad federal laws explicitly mentioning “States” -including Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition assistance, economic incentives (e.g. enterprise zones, new market tax credits) and taxes (including refundable tax credits) – would ultimately apply with equal force to Puerto Rico.
Under statehood, new federal funding could multiply to create new jobs across a wide range of professions. Billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid funding would translate into jobs for health professionals – doctors, hospital administrators, therapists, home health aides and others; increased resources for border patrol would provide career opportunities in law enforcement; a stronger federal presence would involve the hiring of attorneys, law clerks, secretaries and other office workers; new roads and construction would require the assistance of manual labor and expert engineers. New opportunities may even lure the thousands of Puerto Ricans who have migrated to states in the past few years in search of a better life back home to Puerto Rico.
The United States of America is a nation consisting of fifty distinct States with different cultures and unique histories. With the notable exception of the thirteen original colonies, States have generally gained entry into the union after petitioning the federal government on behalf of its people. The U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Section 3) sets a broad framework for admission, permitting Congress to admit new States and not dictating specific prerequisites that must be met.
The process for statehood admittance has been consistent throughout United States history. Once a majority of people living in the territory express a preference for statehood, a request is sent to Congress. Passage of a federal law authorizing statehood requires only a simple majority vote in Congress. The legislation may include transitional measures and stipulations, such as requiring the territory to adopt a republican constitution if not already in place. Often the path to statehood is paved by prior federal financial assistance to the territory in the form of education, infrastructure and health and welfare services.