SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Deep in debt, Puerto Rico makes a push to become our 51st state. 22News discovered if there’s any chance that it happens.
Not any time soon. The reason is politics.
“It could tip the balance in American politics for many years going forward,” said John Baick, Professor of History at Western New England University.
Puerto Ricans voted for statehood on Sunday. A non-binding vote, which measures sentiment, but doesn’t count. 97% of voters said yes. The remaining 3% split their votes between becoming an independent nation and remaining a U.S. Territory. Yet only 23% showed up to vote; many sat out in protest.
David Silva is the executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Springfield.
“One of the biggest fears is losing their cultural identity meaning the language,” said Silva.
Congress has the final choice and that choice could very well be political.
“That would clearly be a Democratic state based on its population and demographics it’s about the same size and population as Connecticut, so that would be five Democratic reps and be two senators,” said Baick.
- Related: Puerto Rican voters back statehood in questioned referendum
- Related: Local Puerto Ricans anxious for results of statehood vote
Puerto Rico is $74 Billion in debt. They can’t pay $49 billion in pensions and more than 150 schools are being closed.
(What are the options if you’re living in Puerto Rico?)
“Not many, I mean we’re limited, being statehood or being independent, being an independent state doesn’t work,” said Silva.
Only Congress can make Puerto Rico the 51st state, but there is no clear constitutional process to make a territory a state.
Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory, Puerto Ricans are American Citizens, but do not pay federal income taxes. Professor Baick told 22News he believes that this Congress will not act on this.