Political status of Puerto Rico facts

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The current political status of Puerto Rico is the result of various political activities within both the United States and Puerto Rican governments. Politically, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, which according to the U.S. Supreme Court's Insular Cases is "a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States within the revenue clauses of the Constitution." The basic question regarding this issue is whether Puerto Rico should remain a U.S. territory, become a U.S. state or become an independent country.

American and Puerto Rican political activities regarding the status question have revolved around three sets of initiatives: presidential executive orders, bills in the U.S. Congress, and referenda held in Puerto Rico. U.S. Presidents have issued three executive orders on the subject, and Congress has considered four major bills on Puerto Rico's political status. Puerto Rican status referenda have been held four times to determine the desired political status of Puerto Rico in relation to the United States of America. At the November 6, 2012, non-binding referendum on the status question, 54% of respondents voted to reject the current status under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution, while in a second question 61% favored statehood as the preferred alternative. The Puerto Rican status referendum, 2017 will be held on June 11, 2017. Voters will get two options: "Statehood" and "Independence/Free Association"; voters will not be given the choice to remain as a Commonwealth.

In 2009, 2011, and most recently in 2016, The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization called for the United States to expedite the process to allow self-determination in Puerto Rico. Internationally, the people of Puerto Rico are often considered to be a Caribbean nation with their own national identity. More specifically, the Special Committee's June 2016 report called for the United States "... to allow the Puerto Rican people to take decisions in a sovereign manner, and to address their urgent economic and social needs, including unemployment, marginalization, insolvency and poverty".

Background

The United States acquired the islands of Puerto Rico in 1898 after the Spanish–American War. In 1950, Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 81-600) authorizing Puerto Rico to hold a constitutional convention and in 1952, the people of Puerto Rico ratified a constitution establishing a republican form of government for the island. After being approved by Congress and the President in July 1952 and thus given force under federal law (P.L. 82-447), the new constitution went into effect on July 25, 1952.

Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917. Since the promulgation of the current Commonwealth constitution in 1952, further local attempts to change the island's political status took place in 1967, 1993, and 1998. An additional referendum held in 1991 sought to amend the relationship through an amendment to the Puerto Rican constitution. Each time, the results favored retaining the current status over the possible independence of Puerto Rico and statehood alternatives.

As a result of Puerto Rico's status as a U.S. territory, the citizens of Puerto Rico do not have any voting representation in the U.S. Federal government. Instead of outright representation through Senators and House Representatives, Puerto Rico has one non-voting Resident Commissioner in the House of Representatives. Furthermore, Puerto Rico is not represented in the Electoral College, and thus U.S. citizens resident there are unable to vote in U.S. presidential elections. It should be noted that the citizens of Puerto Rico can vote in the Republican and Democratic primary elections.

Although Puerto Rico presently has a certain amount of local autonomy, according to the U.S. Constitution ultimate governance of the island is retained by both the U.S. Congress and President. Thus, results of plebiscites, whether or not authorized by Congress, while they reflect public sentiment, and thus bear some impact, can be ignored by Congress. Ultimately, the results of Puerto Rican plebiscites are opinions, although congressional resolutions have expressed support for following the will of the Puerto Rican people.[full citation needed]

Terminology

The English term commonwealth "does not describe or provide for any specific political status or relationship ... [and] when used in connection with areas under U.S. sovereignty that are not states...broadly describes an area that is self-governing under a constitution of its adoption and whose right of self-government will not be unilaterally withdrawn by Congress". It is the same terminology used elsewhere but with other different meanings than what is meant for Puerto Rico:

  • Commonwealth is what four states of the United States have named themselves, these being Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
  • A number of independent states use "Commonwealth" in their style, such as the Commonwealth of Australia or the Commonwealth of The Bahamas; historically, the Icelandic Commonwealth and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth have also used the style in English. Here it relates to its original definition, as a translation of the Latin res publica.
  • Commonwealth is part of the name of the Commonwealth of Nations, a group of independent nations, voluntarily joined by common bonds of various kinds and whose bonds are subject to unilateral revocation by any of the parties.
  • Commonwealth is also used in the Commonwealth of Independent States, formerly parts of the Soviet Union, but now a group of independent nations, voluntarily joined by common bonds of various kinds.

But in the United States, "commonwealth" is also a term, without a clear and stable legal definition, now and previously used by current and past possessions of the United States:

  • Commonwealth was a term used by the Philippines before gaining its independence from the United States in 1947 and becoming a republic, prior to which the US Supreme Court had declared it was an unincorporated territory of the United States.
  • Commonwealth is the term used by the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, a country that is still "unquestionably a colony in light of the decolonization criteria adopted by the United Nations, and [which] is openly treated as a territory by the government of the United States".
  • Commonwealth term definition as per current U.S. State Department policy (as codified in the department's Foreign Affairs Manual) reads: "The term "Commonwealth" does not describe or provide for any specific political status or relationship. It has, for example, been applied to both states and territories. When used in connection with areas under U.S. sovereignty that are not states, the term broadly describes an area that is self-governing under a constitution of its adoption and whose right of self-government will not be unilaterally withdrawn by Congress".

Juan R. Torruella, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (which has jurisdiction over the Federal Court for the District of Puerto Rico), claims that the use of the term commonwealth is a label that "can deceive and obscure the true nature of things". He contends that Puerto Rico is obviously not a state, and that "neither Puerto Rico's status nor its relationship with the U.S. supports any legitimate claim that a British type of "commonwealth" exists between Puerto Rico and the United States".

Then U.S. Secretary of the Interior Oscar L. Chapman, under whose Department resided responsibility of Puerto Rican affairs, clarified the new commonwealth label by stating, "The bill (to permit Puerto Rico to write its own constitution) merely authorizes the people of Puerto Rico to adopt their own constitution and to organize a local government. ... The bill under consideration would not change Puerto Rico's political, social, and economic relationship to the United States."

The Insular Cases

It has been said that "any inquiry into Puerto Rico's status must begin with the Constitution of the United States, as well as various Supreme Court and lower court decisions".

Almost immediately after Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States, Puerto Rico's political status was defined by a series of landmark decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court in what are collectively known as The Insular Cases. From 1901 to 1905, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution extended ex proprio vigore to the territories. However, the Court in these cases also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation. Under the same, the Constitution only applied fully in incorporated territories such as Alaska and Hawaii, whereas it only applied partially in the new unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. Although other cases followed, strictly speaking the Insular Cases are the original six opinions issued concerning acquired territories as a result of the Treaty of Paris (1898). The six cases were:

  • De Lima v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1 (1901)
A plaintiff challenged the imposition of duties for the import of sugar from Puerto Rico to the United States proper. The Court sided with the plaintiff holding that Puerto Rico was not a "foreign country" and hence the duties were invalid.
  • Goetze v. United States (Crossman v. United States), 182 U.S. 221 (1901)
  • Dooley v. United States, 182 U.S. 222 (1901)
  • Armstrong v. United States, 182 U.S. 243 (1901)
  • Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901)
Considered the leading Insular case, concluded that the United States could acquire territory and exercise unrestricted power in determining what rights to concede to its inhabitants. It included the "fateful phrase" that:
"While in an international sense Porto Rico (sic) was not a foreign country, since it was subject to the sovereignty of and was owned by the United States, it was foreign to the United States in a domestic sense, because the island has not been incorporated into the United States, but was merely appurtenant thereto as a possession."
The case created the constitutionally unprecedented category of "unincorporated territories".
  • Huus v. New York and Porto Rico Steamship Co., 182 U.S. 392 (1901)

Other authorities, such as José Trías Monge, state that the list also includes these additional two cases:

  • Dooley v. United States, 183 U.S. 151 (1901)
  • Fourteen Diamond Rings v. United States, 183 U.S. 176 (1901)

The Supreme Court later made other rulings. For example, in Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 305 (1922), explained the distinction between an incorporated and a non-incorporated territory. Juan R. Torruella restated it this way, "an unincorporated territory is a territory as to which, when acquired by the United States, no clear intention was expressed that it would eventually be incorporated into the Union as a State".

Since the Insular Cases had established that only those rights in the U.S. Bill of Rights that are determined to be "fundamental" are applicable in unincorporated territories, the implications of Balzac v. Porto Rico have been enormous. For example:

  • The Court held that the right to trial by jury is not a fundamental right, and thus need not be given to criminal defendants in Puerto Rico. (see Dorr v. United States. See also Balzac v. Porto Rico
  • The Court relied on Downes and Balzac to justify the outright denial of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to United States citizens who had relocated to Puerto Rico from the States. This ruling allowed Congress to deny Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments to the aged and benefits to children and the poor who reside in Puerto Rico, even in the case of an insured who had worked all his life as a resident of the States proper but then moved to live in Puerto Rico. (see Califano v. Torres, 435 U.S. 1 (1978) (per curiam))

In a brief concurrence in the United States Supreme Court judgment of Torres v. Puerto Rico, 442 U.S. 465 (1979), Supreme Court Justice Brennan, argued that any implicit limits from the Insular Cases on the basic rights granted by the Constitution (including especially the Bill of Rights) were anachronistic in the 1970s.

Implications of the current political status

Puerto Rico's current political status limits to the autonomy of the Puerto Rican government. For example, the Island's government is not fully autonomous, and the level of federal presence in the Island is commonplace, including a branch of the United States Federal District Court.

People born in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are natural-born U.S. citizens. Puerto Ricans are also covered by a group of "fundamental civil rights" but, because Puerto Rico is not a state, they are not covered by the full Bill of Rights. All residents must pay federal taxes but, for a variety of reasons, only some pay federal income taxes.

Puerto Ricans lack a voting representative in the U.S. Congress, but they do have a Resident Commissioner who has a voice in Congress (but no vote other than committee-level voting). Puerto Ricans must also serve in the United States military whenever it is compulsory in the mainland United States, with the same duties and obligations as U.S. citizens residing in the 50 states.

Status questions

  1. REDIRECT Template:Sidebar Elections in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico's main political issue is the territory's relationship with the United States. A United States territory since 1898, and known as "Estado Libre Asociado" (Free Associated State) or as commonwealth since 1952, Puerto Rico today is torn by profound ideological rifts, as represented by its political parties, which stand for three distinct future political scenarios: the status quo (commonwealth), statehood, and independence. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) seeks to maintain or improve the current status towards becoming a more sovereign territory of the United States, the New Progressive Party (PNP) seeks to fully incorporate Puerto Rico as a U.S. state, and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) seeks national independence.

When asked, in non-binding plebiscites, to choose between independence, statehood, or continuation of the status quo with enhanced powers, as proposed by the PPD, Puerto Ricans have voted to remain a commonwealth. In the penultimate plebiscite in 1998, Puerto Ricans voted for "none of the above" by a slight majority. This has variously been interpreted as: "the people of Puerto Rico exercised their inalienable right to self-determination, and a majority of them—fully 50.3 percent, to be exact—chose to remain a colony. One might also say, however, the oldest strategy for governing recalcitrant subjects—divide and conquer—was subtly at work."

It is clear, however, that they are dissatisfied by their current status. The issue is debated and is on the agenda of all the political parties and civil society groups. Several pro-commonwealth leaders within the PPD are proposing an Associated Republic or Free Association similar to that of the former U.S. territories of the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands or Palau.

Plebiscites

In general, three main alternatives were presented to Puerto Rican voters in status plebiscites:

  • Full independence
  • Maintenance or enhancement of commonwealth status
  • Full statehood

The exact expectations for each of these status formulas are a matter of debate by a given position's adherents and detractors. Puerto Ricans have proposed positions that modify the alternatives above:

  • Indemnified independence with phased-out U.S. subsidy
  • Expanded political but not fiscal autonomy
  • Statehood with a gradual phasing out of industrial federal tax incentives

The following table summarizes the results of Puerto Rico's plebiscites so far.

Results of Puerto Rico's status referenda, vote total (% total).
1967 1993 1998 2012
Independence 4,248 (0.6%) 75,620 (4.4%) 39,838 (2.54%) NA 5.5%
Commonwealth 425,132 (60.4%) 826,326 (48.6%) 993 (0.06%) 46.0% NA
Free Association NA NA 4536 (0.29%) NA 33.2%
Statehood 274,312 (39.0%) 788,296 (46.3%) 728,157 (46.49%) NA 61.3%
None of the above NA NA 787,900 (50.3%) NA
Electoral turnout 66% 74% 71% 79%

In the Puerto Rican status referendum, 2012 54.00%of voters indicated "No" to maintaining the current political status. A full 61.11% of voters chose statehood, 33.34% chose free association, and 5.55% chose independence. Because there were almost 500,000 blank ballots, creating confusion as to the voters' true desire, Congress decided to ignore the vote. The 2014 budget bill included $2.5 million in funding for a future vote on Puerto Rico's political status.

The previous plebiscites provided voters with three options: remain a Commonwealth, Statehood and Independence/Free Association. The Puerto Rican status referendum, 2017 will offer only two options: Statehood and Independence/Free Association. If the majority favor Independence/Free Association, a second vote will be held to determine the preference: full independence as a nation or associated free state status with independence but with a "free and voluntary political association" between Puerto Rico and the United States. The specifics of the association agreement

Governor Ricardo Rosselló is strongly in favor of statehood to help develop the economy and help to "solve our 500-year-old colonial dilemma ... Colonialism is not an option .... It’s a civil rights issue ... 3.5 million citizens seeking an absolute democracy," he told the news media.

Statehood might be useful as a means of dealing with the financial crisis, since it would allow for bankruptcy and the relevant protection. According to the Government Development Bank, this might be the only solution to the debt crisis. Congress has the power to vote to allow Chapter 9 protection without the need for statehood, but in late 2015 there was very little support in the House for this concept. Other benefits to statehood include increased disability benefits and Medicaid funding, the right to vote in Presidential elections and the higher (federal) minimum wage.

At approximately the same time as the referendum, Puerto Rico's legislators are also expected to vote on a bill that would allow the Governor to draft a state constitution and hold elections to choose senators and representatives to the federal Congress. Regardless of the outcome of the votes, Congress will be the body to make the final decision on the status of Puerto Rico.

Presidential executive orders

Various U.S. presidents have signed executive orders to help define, study, and generate activity regarding the political status of Puerto Rico. Three major orders were the 2005, 2007, and 2011 executive orders to establish the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status.

Bills in U.S. Congress

See also: The United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act and Puerto Rico Democracy Act

The Territories Clause of the United States Constitution (Art. IV, Sec. 3, cl. 2) allows for Congress to "dispose of" Puerto Rico and allow it to become independent of the U.S. (in the same way as the Philippines did in 1945) or, under the authority of the Admissions Clause (Art. IV, Sec. 3, cl. 1) for it to be admitted as a state of the United States (with a vote of Congress in the same way that Alaska and Hawaii were admiited in 1958 and 1959 respectively).

Since Congress must approve of any political status change for Puerto Rico, some argue that "congressional agreement to the options [on a ballot], prior to a plebiscite would save the people of Puerto Rico the grief of an emotionally draining and politically divisive vote that might result in a status not acceptable to Congress". Former Resident Commissioner and Former Governor Carlos Romero Barceló echoed this sentiment when he recalled, at a 1997 congressional hearing, that both "[Representatives] Young and Miller were clear in stating [in their March 3, 1997, letter to the presidents of the three political parties in Puerto Rico] that there was no purpose in presenting the people of Puerto Rico a status definition which does not represent an option that the Congress will be willing to ratify should it be approved in a plebiscite."

A catalyst for the legislative activity taking place in Congress was the release in December 2005 of the presidential task force's report. Per United States v. Sanchez, 992 F.2d 1143, 1152–53 (11th Cir. 1993), "Congress continues to be the ultimate source of power [over Puerto Rico] pursuant to the Territory Clause of the Constitution". (quoting United States v. Andino, 831 F.2d 1164, 1176 (1st Cir. 1987) (Torruella, J., concurring), cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1034 (1988)), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 11 10 (1994).9 An Act of Congress, thus, is ultimately required to modify the current political status of Puerto Rico.

On June 9, 2016, in Commonwealth of Puerto Rico vs Sanchez Valle, a 6-2 majority of the United States Supreme Court determined that Puerto Rico is a territory and lacks sovereignty. The opinion of the court stated: "Back of the Puerto Rican people and their Constitution, the 'ultimate' source of prosecutorial power remains the U. S. Congress, just as back of a city’s charter lies a state government."

Four major bills regarding the political status of Puerto Rico have come before Congress, H.R. 856, H.R. 900, H.R. 2499, and H.R. 2000.

United Nations classification

The United Nations has intervened in the past to evaluate the legitimacy of Puerto Rico's political status, to ensure that the island's government structure complies with the standards of self-government that constitute the basic tenets of the United Nations Charter, its covenants, and its principles of international law. Some authorities, such as Trias Monge, argue that Puerto Rico "clearly does not meet the decolonization standards set by the United Nations in 1960".

Resolution 748

During its 8th session, the United Nations General Assembly recognized Puerto Rico's self-government on November 27, 1953, with Resolution 748 (VIII). (UN Resolution "748 (VIII)", adopted on November 27, 1953, during its 459th Plenary Meeting.) This removed Puerto Rico's classification as a non-self-governing territory (under article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations). The resolution passed, garnering a favorable vote from some 40% of the General Assembly, with over 60% abstaining or voting against it (20 to 16, plus 18 abstentions). Today, however, the UN "still debates whether Puerto Rico is a colony" or not.

UN vote aftermath

However, Puerto Rico's political status is still debated in many international forums, possibly in part because of the circumstances surrounding the vote: "Under United States pressure, General Assembly Resolution 748 passed—though only narrowly and with many countries abstaining. The debate over Resolution 748 prompted the United Nations to agree on governing arrangements that would provide full self-government to non-self-governing territories: in United States terms, these arrangements were statehood, independence, and free association. Yet, under international law, a freely associated state is a sovereign nation in a joint governing arrangement with another nation that either nation can unilaterally end." Though the subject continues to be debated in many forums it is clear that (1) the current territorial status has not satisfied Puerto Rican political leaders, and (2) that despite the divergent views that Puerto Ricans have with respect to their preferred political status, 'all factions agree on the need to end the present undemocratic arrangement whereby Puerto Rico is subject to the laws of Congress but cannot vote in it.'

Attempts to reintroduce a new UN vote

The list of factors for determining when a colony has achieved a full measure of self-government appears in Resolution 1541 (XV) of the General Assembly of the United Nations, 15 UN GAOR Supplement (No. 16) at 29, UN Document A/4684 (1960).

The General Assembly did not apply its full list of criteria to Puerto Rico for determining whether or not self-governing status had been achieved. The UN's Committee on Non-Self-Governing States recently unanimously agreed to ask the General Assembly to take up the issue of Puerto Rico. In June 2007, the Puerto Rico Senate approved a Concurrent Resolution urging the UN General Assembly to discuss Puerto Rico's case.

Starting in 1971, "Cuba introduced annual resolutions on the issue in the UN's Decolonization Committee but the United States has blocked General Assembly action and stopped cooperating with the Decolonization Committee. On August 23, 1973, the United States vigorously opposed that members of Puerto Rico's independence movement be allowed to speak at the UN. The U.S. position has not been that Puerto Rico is not a territory; rather, the U.S. position of record, based on General Assembly Resolution 748, is that the Decolonization Committee lacks jurisdiction, that the matter is one for the United States and Puerto Rico to resolve, and that Puerto Rico has not sought a new status."

In 1972, the UN set a precedent when, after approving Puerto Rico's association with the United States in 1953 as sufficient evidence to remove PR from the list of Colonized Countries, the United Nations reopened the matter in 1972 and it is still under review. "Failure [of the United States] to include independence as an option and harassment of [Puerto Rican] pro-independence organizations were reasons for the United Nations' recent reconsideration of the status of Puerto Rico".

Since 1972, the Decolonization Committee has called for Puerto Rico's decolonization and for the United States to recognize the island's right to self-determination and independence. Most recently, the Decolonization Committee called for the General Assembly to review the political status of Puerto Rico, a power reserved by the 1953 resolution.

In 1993, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit stated that Congress may unilaterally repeal the Puerto Rican Constitution or the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950 and replace them with any rules or regulations of its choice. In a 1996 report on a Puerto Rico status political bill, the U.S. House Committee on Resources stated, "Puerto Rico's current status does not meet the criteria for any of the options for full self-government under Resolution 1541" (the three established forms of full self-government being stated in the report as (1) national independence, (2) free association based on separate sovereignty, or (3) full integration with another nation on the basis of equality). The report concluded that Puerto Rico "remains an unincorporated territory and does not have the status of 'free association' with the United States as that status is defined under United States law or international practice", and that the establishment of local self-government with the consent of the people can be unilaterally revoked by the U.S. Congress. The application of the U.S. Constitution applies partially to Puerto Rico by the Insular Cases.

United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization

Since 1953, the UN has been considering the political status of Puerto Rico and how to assist it in achieving "independence" or "decolonization". In 1978, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization determined that a "colonial relationship" existed between the US and Puerto Rico.

The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization has often referred to Puerto Rico as a nation in its reports, because, internationally, the people of Puerto Rico are often considered to be a Caribbean nation with their own national identity. In a June 2016 report, the Special Committee called for the United States to expedite the process to allow self-determination in Puerto Rico. The group called on the United States to expedite a process that would allow the people of Puerto Rico to exercise fully their right to self-determination and independence. ... [and] allow the Puerto Rican people to take decisions in a sovereign manner and to address their urgent economic and social needs, including unemployment, marginalization, insolvency and poverty".

Distinct national group

Internationally

Though politically associated with the United States, Puerto Rico is considered by many other nations to have its own distinct national identity. Internationally, it has been reported that "the Fourteenth Ministerial Conference of the Movement of Non-aligned Nations...reaffirms that Puerto Rican people constitute a Latin American and Caribbean nation."

Amongst Puerto Ricans

Although Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States classified as a commonwealth, many Puerto Ricans consider it to be a country in and of itself. In their book on American expansionism titled The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion, 1803–1898, Sanford Levinson and Bartholomew H. Sparrow also determined that "Most Puerto Ricans consider themselves a distinct national group." They also observed that both Americans and Puerto Ricans see themselves as separate cultures—"even separate nationalities".

At the local level, it has been observed that Puerto Ricans "consider themselves a territorially distinct national unit, a nation defined by its cultural distinctiveness". In recent plebiscites Puerto Ricans have not expressed themselves in favor of a political status with the intention of becoming a sovereign state, but the idea that Puerto Rico is a separate social, political and cultural entity from the United States has been repeatedly expressed.

Position of U.S. political parties

Both major United States political parties (Democratic and Republican) have expressed their support for the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to exercise their right to self-determination, with the Republican Party platform explicitly mentioning support for statehood and the Democratic Party platform expressing explicitly broader support for right to self-determination.

Stateside Puerto Ricans and status

See also: Puerto Ricans in the United States
PR-Reps
Stateside Puerto Rican members of the United States Congress: Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)(left), José Serrano (D-NY)(center), and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY)(right) speaking at the Encuentro Boricua Conference at Hostos Community College in New York City, 2004

More Puerto Ricans live stateside in the U.S. than in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. A 2009 report by the Pew Hispanic Center indicates that, as of 2007, 4.1 million Puerto Ricans lived in the mainland versus 3.9 million living in the Island. Since the 1967 referendum, there have been demands that stateside Puerto Ricans be allowed to vote in these plebiscites on the political status of Puerto Rico. Since the 1990s, the role of stateside Puerto Ricans in advocating for Puerto Rico in Washington, D.C., on issues such as the Navy's removal from Vieques and others has increased, especially given that there are three full voting members of the U.S. Congress who are stateside Puerto Ricans (two from New York City and one from Chicago), in contrast to Puerto Rico's single Resident Commissioner in the U.S. Congress with no vote.

Between February 24 and March 6 in 2006, the National Institute for Latino Policy conducted an opinion survey over the Internet of a broad cross-section of stateside Puerto Rican community leaders and activists across the United States. The survey had a total of 574 respondents, including 88 non-Puerto Rican members of the Institute's national network of community leaders.

The views of the 484 Puerto Ricans in the survey found broad support among them for the holding of a plebiscite on the future political status of Puerto Rico. While 73% were in favor of such a vote, they were split on the options to be voted upon. Those supporting the 2005 proposal made by the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status that the vote be ultimately limited to the options of statehood versus independence made up 31% of the total respondents. A larger group (43%) supported including the commonwealth option in the proposed plebiscite.

U.S. public opinion on the status of Puerto Rico

A March 13, 1998 Gallup Poll asked Americans: "Do you personally think Puerto Rico: Should become a completely independent nation; should remain a territory of the United States, or, should be admitted to the United States as the fifty-first state?"

The responses were:

  • Become independent – 28%
  • Remain a U.S. territory – 26%
  • Be admitted as the fifty-first state – 30%
  • None/Other – 5%
  • No opinion – 11%

In a 1991 Gallup Poll more than 60% of Americans said they would support independence or statehood if a majority of Puerto Ricans voted for either.

In a June 2007 Opinion Dynamics/Fox News poll, 57% of Americans opposed Puerto Rican statehood.


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