Excitement in Springfield over possibility of Puerto Rico statehood

Hope that statehood could help fix economic crisis

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Puerto Rico’s new governor Ricardo Rossello favors having Puerto Rico’s voters decide through a referendum whether they prefer statehood or independence. He feels statehood would help reduce the island’s chronic economic problems.

The island’s unique status has allowed free movement of people back and forth from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland for many years, but the island receives less federal funding than the states, and its residents cannot vote in presidential elections.

Puerto Rico is currently in the midst of a major economic crisis, and its new governor and resident commissioner (its nonvoting representative in Congress) are hoping to finally make Puerto Rico a state. A bill has been filed in Congress that could make Puerto Rico a state by 2025.

The possibility of statehood for Puerto Rico has many supporters in the western Massachusetts Latino community. “We live in the biggest and most beautiful nation that gives us all the blessings of the american dream,” Jose Claudio, director of the New North Citizens Council in Springfield, told 22News “We just want Puerto Ricans to have that too.”

22News found similar support in the heavily hispanic North End of Springfield. Miguel Sanchez, who has been living in Springfield for 25 years said that “It would help them economically, politically. There are no jobs there or anything.”

Clauido said that Puerto Rico statehood would not, however have much of an impact on Puerto Ricans living in western Massachusetts or in other states. As U.S. citizens by birth, Puerto Ricans already have the right to vote in the state in which they reside. They also are able to travel and relocate freely between the island and the mainland. He did say, however, that statehood could be a comfort to local residents worried about their relatives back on Puerto Rico.