What happens on Puerto Rico definitely won’t stay there — not in 2020, anyway.
On Nov. 3, millions of the island’s residents will cast their ballots and answer an important question: Do they want to ask for statehood? If so, it’s a decision that would dramatically shake up the political status quo from the Bronx to Washington, D.C.
For Ritchie Torres, the soon-to-be congressman from the Bronx, statehood, or estadidad, is simply about Puerto Ricans getting the same rights as any other American citizen.
“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re going to be on the menu,” said Torres, who will succeed Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) as representative of the most heavily Puerto Rican congressional district in the nation. “The people on the island should not be at the mercy of presidents and Congress.”
Statehood means Puerto Rico would get two U.S. senators and an estimated five seats in the House of Representatives. It would get a crucial seven electoral votes in presidential elections.
More importantly for statehood advocates, it would be much more difficult for President Trump or anyone else to treat Puerto Rico differently from the other 50 states.
“The momentum of history is with statehood,” Torres added.
Polls show more support for statehood than ever before, especially compared to past disputed referendums. Puerto Ricans favored the measure by an 18-point margin in a recent poll.
And Americans on the mainland are also surprisingly supportive of the idea of adding new stars to the flag.
A recent poll said Americans support statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, if they ask for it, by a powerful 59%-26% margin, including a huge 70% backing from political independents.
Not all Boricuas agree.
The topic of statehood has long been controversial even among progressive Puerto Rican Democrats, some of whom prefer to keep open the option of independence.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens, Bronx) recently introduced a measure that would effectively short-circuit consideration of Puerto Rico statehood if the plebiscite passes.
The representatives, neither of whom would comment for this story, call instead for a so-called status convention to come up with a proposal for the island’s future relationship with the U.S. They called support for statehood “misguided.”
Stephen Nuno, a. political analyst with the opinion research firm Latino Decisions, agrees that Puerto Ricans on the mainland are deeply split over the optimal future status of the island. But a recent poll shows an overwhelming majority back statehood when told about the additional representation in Congress that would come with it.
“If the country is considering giving representation to D.C., why wouldn’t it do the same for Puerto Rico?” Nuno asked.
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