SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Puerto Rican residents have been US citizens since 1917, but they still can’t vote in Presidential elections, that’s a reason many hope the U.S. territory will become a state.
Sunday they voted in a referendum to decide if they want to become statehood, independent or stay with the current territorial status.
Rose Rodrigues of Springfield told 22News, “I think they should do it because they could get the benefits, probably the schools they could get better education and help from here.”
Puerto Rico has been struggling financially for quite some time. The island currently has more than $70 billion of outstanding debt.
Some believe that has to do with them being a territory and not a state.
Springfield is home to a large population of people who moved from Puerto Rico. Many of them still have family back on the island and many have different opinions.
Vivian Garcia told 22News, “For me we should stay the way we are or maybe become independent. I don’t think we should be a state, I respect the United States I give credit to the United States. We have our own culture, if we become a state we’re going to lose it.”
Many expect supporters of statehood to dominate the vote, but congress has final say over whether to approve the outcome of the referendum that offers voters.
The referendum coincides with the 100th anniversary of the United States granting U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans.