The island of Puerto Rico is more or less a subject of discussion on the national level. According to the latest census data, there are around 3.4 millions of American citizens who live on the island of Puerto Rico, and around 5 million who live in the mainland. Actually, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, and while some think differently, Puerto Ricans are American citizens since 1917 by virtue of the Jones Act, and yet, while living on the island they are not allowed to vote for the President of the United States.
Moreover, since 1917, more than 200.000 American citizens from Puerto Rico have served in the United States army in every armed conflict since the Civil War, and there are about 10,000 Puerto Rican citizens that are actively serving in all armed forces.
The current political relationship between the island and the United States puts Puerto Ricans in unfavorable position, who are completely being subject to Article IV, Chapter 3, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, also known as the Territorial Clause which gives Congress the power to dispose and make all the rules respecting the Territories.How Puerto Rico can become first Hispanic State?
On Nov. 6, 2012 the people of Puerto Rico opened a completely new chapter in the political history of the island towards the statehood path. Since 1952 and the previous establishment of its actual status, described as Commonwealth (Estado Libre Asociado – ELA) until today, the status quo (current status, ELA-unincorporated territory) has never been questioned and defeated in any electoral event.
After the establishment of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952, four referendums were organized in order to resolve the status issue.
The fourth referendum held on Nov. 6, 2012 gathered a new majority composed by a significant coalition of all Puerto Ricans (statehooders, independence, and free association supporters), precisely 970,910 voters representing 54 percent of the votes outside of party lines, defeated the actual political status. Furthermore, for the first time in our history, 834,191 voters (61,11 percent) elected the statehood as an option. Despite being contested, mostly by the center oriented party of the island (Popular Democratic Party), these results represent a mandate for change for both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.
The month after the referendum was held, on Dec. 04, 2012, then-Democratic Hispanic spokesman of the White House Luis Miranda stated:
“To clarify, the results were clear, the people of Puerto Rico want the issue of the status resolved, and a majority chose statehood in the second question..”
After the above mentioned statement, the Obama administration carried out and accomplished an historical budget appropriation of 2.5 million dollars for organization of a referendum with status options that must be approved by the Department of Justice before the electoral event.
“..Once the 2012 local vote for statehood ratified, Congress should approve an enabling act with terms for Puerto Rico’s future admission as the 51ststate of the Union.”
In a couple of months Puerto Ricans on the island will have in their hands another opportunity to ratify, not only to the United States, but to the whole world, their strong will for change and decolonization towards their current relationship with the United States through a referendum where the voters will be able to choose between statehood and independence/free association.
Both on the island and the mainland, some people have already demonstrated their resistance before Congress regarding the admission of Puerto Rico as the next State of the Union. This resistance against an equality movement is not a new phenomenon – we witnessed it also before the slavery has been abolished in the United States, before the approval of the civil rights act in the 1960’s, before granting women with the right to vote, and more recently, with the Supreme Court decisiongiving equal rights to the LGBTQ community. At the end, all of those who were resisting found themselves on the wrong side of the history.
The Latino community all around the United States has to consider the Puerto Rico case more carefully. As a State, Puerto Rico will have 5 representatives and 2 Senators in the Congress, which in total represent 7 additional Latino voices to push and improve the issues that on a daily basis affect our community.
With almost 60 million of Latinos in the United States, as a first Hispanic State, Puerto Rico has a chance to become a spokesman and a very powerful political force to represent interests of our community in Washington. Moreover, it can serve as a liaison between the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America.
Resistance will take place inside and outside of Congress, which will try to divert attention from this important subject, or those who will raise the question of delaying the Puerto Rico status issue, which can be expected as a result of the establishment of the new Fiscal Oversight and Management Board on the island. Therefore, we need to remind them that the struggle for the equality and civil rights shouldn’t depend neither on the economy nor on anyone’s vote,but rather on a claim of dignity for 3.4 millions of American citizens on the island who deserve to be treated with equality.
Anthony Carrillo, Esq., is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Young Democrats of America Hispanic Caucus and Co-Founder of Igualdad Futuro Seguro.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.
THE LEGAL REALITY OF FREE ASSOCIATION
Correct to state that “free association” as defined and recognized worldwide, is a separation process in which the separating colony’s people become citizens of that new separate country, regardless of the terms later agreed to in an association: Raymond Watson:
What is NOT correct is to state that if statehood is preferred over such free association status, in the particuar case of Puerto Rico would have to cease speaking Spanish, have only one “official” language, English, run the government and schools in English only, etc. Falsr, totaly false.
The USA has no official language!!!!!! It is forbidden in the US Consitution, as it would infringe on the right to freedom of expression. That the US federal government and the 50 state governments operate mostly in English is a mattter of convenience and practicality, established custom, not mandated law!!!!
As a matter of fact, the PR government conducts many operations and also communicates in English, as it must direct reports to federal agencies providing federal funds which require detailed reports in English, per custom and established practice and use.
Moreover, in Puerto Rico it is established standard practice in Architecture and Engineering to prepare construction plans, specs, and contract documents in English for private as well as public projects. It is no exaggeration to state that no construction foremen nor even licensed Engineers can build with construction plans, specs,and contract documents in Spanish!!! Not one of them can understand that a “mampara” is a partition wall!!!!! I was appointed member of a Committee of
the PanAmerican Union of Engineers (UPADI) by the President of our Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores to compose a costruction lexicon for standard use in engineering projects throughout Latin America, in Spanish.
Mission imposssible. The differences in vocabulary were unsurmountable. I proposed that any such construction lexicon be prepared in English, if at all, for the ultimate benefit of a standard practice. Various countries could, if desired, prepare a translation in their own version of Spanish vocabulary for their local use as convenient, without affecting the quality of the construction work. The matter was kept in abeyance, Committee adjourned, and I never heard another word afterwards.
Medical and pharmaceutical communication here in PR is mostly in English already. much the same is true of investments in the stock and bond markets, as well as commeecial and public banking.
This could go on and on. Butbottom line is that our people must never be allowed to be misled by populares and separatists into believing that statehood would make Spanish disappear here, a dirty falsehood. There being no official langiuage in the USA, no federated state, with its constitutional powers can be forced into adopting any exclusive official language. Throughout our great nation, English is the most used language, the result of custom and convenience, not by any statutory nor constitutional mandate of any sort. In parts of our USA, German is spoken as a lingua franca. The same occurs with Italian, Japanese, Chinese dialects, Yiddish, Amish formal anticuated English, Portuguese, and of course, Spanish. Many strore fronts in parts of Florida, Texas, New Mexico, and South California place signs in store windows, “English Spoken Here”!!
Puyerto Rico would have no real trouble to conduct its state government in both English and Spanish as any situation may require. The re-emergence of an English daily newspaper would be welcome and not worry the existing Spanish publcations, as it never did in the past.
And, sure, more TV and Radio in English would naturally ensue by public demand and not by government fiat.
As to schools, state public schools would, with time, find it advisable to employ a bit more English while always retaining Spanish, PR History, and Literature. Private schools will, as always, do as they consider will be best education within legal limits, with English enhanced to meet demands by parents, as happens today. Spanish drama and musical enjoyment would not suffer even if, on occasion, a Broadway Musical came to town. Opera will still have its devoted public, as will Ballet. Our lifestyle would be enhanced, never spoiled, under statehood.
Fear, unreasonable and given to emotional rhetoric is an enemy of statehood. In addition to logical discussions regarding greatly enhanced political power and sovereignty, with 2 Senatots and 5-6 Representatives acting for our people in Congress, while all eligible voters in our state will be voting for President and VP, thus forcing the candidates for our nation’s highest offices to come here and woo us for our votes, promising and fulfilling those promises……….. that means much prosperity, greater freedom, and much more opportunities for economic development and high-wage employment.
Thus, we Puerto Ricans cannot lose by becoming the Sovereign Comonwelath of Puerto Rico, USA.
Also, thus the USA becomes an even greater nation with this state as the ultimate bridge to hispanic America, a firmer coming together in this hemisphere that will greatly enhance profitable and human relations for all.
Statehod for Puerto Rico will be wonderful for our fatherland island and our nation. WIN-WIN!!!!!
J RAYMOND WATSON, PE Guaynabo, PR Feb 21, 2017
On Sun, Feb 19, 2017 at 9:39 PM, Luis Edgardo <email@example.com> wrote:
ESTE ES UN BUEN ARTICULO SOBRE LO QUE ES LA LIBRE ASOCIACION . SE DEBE TRADUCIR Y CIRCULAR A TODOS LOS CONOCIDOS.JMS
Sunday, February 19th, 2017
The Legal Reality of Free Association
Posted on February 10, 2017
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As Puerto Rico prepares to vote on status options in its first federally-funded plebiscite, it’s important to make sure that voters fully understand the status options.
The first vote, planned for June 2017, will be between statehood and independence. If independence wins the vote, there will be a second vote between two forms of independence: independence as a sovereign nation with no special ties to the United States, and independence as a Free Associated State in a negotiated relationship with the United States.
Howard Hills, author of Citizens Without A State, wrote an article called “Free Association for Micronesia and the Marshall Islands: A Transitional Political Status Model” published in the University of Hawai’i Law Review in 2004, which clarifies the Free Association relationship and remains relevant today.
The article’s introduction lays out the reality of the Free Association relationship:
[T]he parties have agreed to gradually reverse and ultimately end certain significant features of political integration between the islands and the United States. Thus, free association serves as a transitional political status that enables a former territory to achieve separate sovereignty, nationality and citizenship on the international plane outside the U.S. constitutional system. Under the free association model, the island governments and people first determine for themselves that they prefer sovereignty rather than integration with the United States. Then, the treaty of association becomes the instrument that terminates policies and programs implemented during the territorial period.
Some proponents of Free Association are wrongly claiming that citizens of the Republic of Puerto Rico would be sure to maintain U.S. citizenship and “acquired rights” such as Social Security payments. On the contrary, Hills says, “Under U.S. policy, law, and practice, free association is a transitional status model for a U.S.-administered territory that will not be integrated into the U.S. federal political union.”
Hills goes on to describe the foundation of Free Association relationships, concluding that “free association is separate nationhood and an international association between sovereigns.”
“Consequently,” he continues, “sovereign free association as adopted by the United States and its associated states is not a form of domestic political union under the U.S. Constitution. Rather, it is an international association that is classified as a foreign affairs matter.”
One of the implications of this fact is that financial assistance for FAS (Free Associated States) is voted on and approved — or not approved — by Congress each year. The U.S. is not obligated by the terms of the Compact of Free Association even financially. The freedom of free association means that either side can change its mind at any time.
Indeed, the current agreements between the U.S. and its free associated states call for financial assistance to be phased out completely within the next decade.
Hills reviews the travel and immigration laws applying to the FAS, saying that “Citizens of the associated states are aliens under U.S. immigration and naturalization law, and are to be treated like aliens, except for certain special travel privileges.” These laws are more restricted now than they used to be. Hills points out that this demonstrates once again that “free association is a treaty-based status that is neither constitutionally defined nor permanent.”
“To be non-colonial and non-territorial,” Hills concludes, “free association must preserve each party’s ability to terminate it in favor if independence for both parties at any time.”
Hills was a legal advisor to the U.S. National Security Council, Office for Micronesian Status Negotiations, and the Counsel for Free Associated State Affairs, U.S. Department of State under President Reagan.