On Sunday, June 11, Puerto Ricans will vote to decide whether the commonwealth should become the 51st state of the United States.
Puerto Rico has been crippled by a financial crisis that has left thousands of Puerto Ricans leaving the island for the United States. Puerto Rico has lost about 2 percent of their population every year for the past three years, according to The Denver Post. According to The New York Times, the Puerto Rican government has been saddled with $123 billion in debt and pension obligations, leaving the island strapped for cash when it comes to public goods. The massive debt has led to money being taken out of health care, public schools, and other public programs in the island nation’s government.
The vote comes at a time when many U.S. Congresspeople, and the Trump administration, are showing nearly no support for the U.S. territory’s move to become the 51st state.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who represents Florida’s 7th Congressional district, which includes Puerto Rican-heavy Orlando, has voiced her support for a strong Puerto Rico as a state or sovereign nation.
“Puerto Rico is going through difficult times, and I am determined to help the island get back on its feet,” Murphy said on the House floor, according to Sunshine State News. “The main reason Puerto Rico is struggling is because, as a territory, it is treated unequally under federal law. I support equal treatment for Puerto Rico because I oppose second-class citizenship. Ultimately, I believe Puerto Rico should discard its territory status and become a state or a sovereign nation. The choice lies with the people of Puerto Rico. My personal hope is that they will choose statehood, so they have full voting rights and full equality. Puerto Ricans have earned the right to become first-class citizens of the nation they have served with honor.”
Orlando is home to some 100,000 people of Puerto Rican descent and Florida is home to 1 million people of Puerto Rican descent, according to Miami Herald. If Puerto Rico votes in favor of statehood, it would trigger a policy known as the Tennessee Plan, which would allow Puerto Rico to send representatives and delegates to Washington D.C. to demand seats in Congress, according to The Hill. In the case of Puerto Rico, current governor Ricardo Rosselló would send two senators and five representatives, which many are speculating would be Democratic. mitú will be updating this story after the election with the results.
READ: Puerto Rico Is On The Brink Of Financial Ruin, So It’s Shutting Down A Record Number Of Public Schools