Why Puerto Rico Probably Won’t Become the 51st State


A report by Frankie Caracciollo for Inverse.

Even after Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly in favor of statehood …

Even after Puerto Rico Governor Ricard Rosselló declared change would come, saying “From today, the federal government will no longer be able to ignore the voice of the majority of the American citizens in Puerto Rico” …

Even though the official platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties support Puerto Rican statehood, and US President Donald Trump has spoken in favor of it

Puerto Rican statehood is still seen by most as unlikely.

“To make a long story short, the prospects are between zero and negative-10 percent,” Carlos Iván Gorrín Peralta, a territorial-law scholar, told The Atlantic

What’s stopping the US-controlled Caribbean Island from becoming the 51st state?

For Republicans, at least, practical considerations may be getting in the way of ideological support, with speculation that Puerto Rico would lean Democratic. This, however, is based on voting patterns of Puerto Ricans who already live in the states. Those on the island tend to be more socially conservative, and voters are split along party lines, but that often is determined more by how the party positions itself towards the question of statehood — the most popular political question in Puerto Rico.

Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez, an Illinois Democrat whose parents migrated to Chicago from Puerto Rico issued a statement before Sunday’s vote saying that Trump’s administration would never let this happen. “The supporters of statehood are selling a fantasy that a Latino, Caribbean nation will be admitted as a state during the era of Donald Trump,” wrote Gutiérrez. “That states, many of which supported Trump, will accept a Spanish-speaking state that will receive just as many Senators and maybe even more House seats than they currently have.”

Trump, for his part, is passing the buck. “This matter is something that’s going to be determined now that the people have spoken in Puerto Rico,” began Press Secretary Sean Spicer in a press conference on Monday. “This is something that Congress has to address.”

Congress, meanwhile, doesn’t actually have to take up the matter at all. The vote was nonbinding and there are concerns about the validity of the ballot. While the vote had the highest margin of victory for statehood ever (and just the second of the 5 referendums to support this choice), less than a quarter of Puerto Ricans voted, down 300,000 votes from the 800,000 who cast their vote in favor of self-determination in 2012.

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