Rep. Drew Stokesbary, along with 16 others from the House of Representatives of the State of Washington, has presented House Joint Memorial (HJM) 4009 in support of statehood for Puerto Rico.
The Memorial does not call for statehood directly, but for the U.S. Congress to make Puerto Rico into an incorporated territory, and to “apply all law and policy in Puerto Rico on the same basis as in a state of the union without discrimination or inequality.”
The Memorial points out the inequalities Puerto Rico faces, including unequal treatment in programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and unequal support in disaster recovery.
It also reminds Congress that Puerto Rico’s constitution was accepted before those of Alaska and Hawaii, which became States.
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory
The Insular Cases of the early 20th century determined that unincorporated territories of the United States are not fully covered by the U.S. Constitution.
In the same series of cases, the Supreme Court decided that unincorporated territories were not necessarily on their way to statehood, as incorporated territories are. The only current incorporated territory of the United States is the Palmyra Atoll, which has no permanent residents.
Palmyra Atoll, should it someday have a population which asked for independence, would not be able to become a nation. As an incorporated territory, Palmyra Atoll could become a State but could not become a nation.
Washington wants equality for Puerto Rico
“This is a matter of equality,” said Stokesbary. “Puerto Rico has voted twice in the last seven years to become part of our great nation.”
He further emphasized that, “[t]he 3.5 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico want to have equal status within our nation just like the residents of Washington.”
Memorials are requests from State governments to the U.S. Congress. Florida, Tennessee, and Illinois have all officially supported statehood for Puerto Rico in recent years. Even prior to the 2012 referendum, California, New Mexico, New York,Texas, and Wisconsin took action supporting Puerto Rico’s struggle to gain a permanent status.