Statehood for DC could come sooner than Puerto Rico — here’s why

Senate Majority Leader Schumer reveals a divide in the Latinx Hill leadership splits members on statehood for Puerto Rico.

Statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico appears to be within reach this year as significant movement on the For the People Act (H.R.1 and S.1) clears a pathway for the territories to gain equal representation in the federal government.

But in the case of Puerto Rico, the island lacks the same unified support D.C. has built.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Read More: Puerto Rico’s so-called progressives are denying citizens’ human rights

With the U.S. House, Senate and the White House in Democrats’ control, many believe this is the time to add the two territories into the statehood.

When it comes to statehood for the District of Columbia, President Joe Biden has been a long-time supporter according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is in favor of the status change. He said the Democratic Caucus “will do everything it can to see that it happens [statehood]” for the nation’s capital. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on March 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

During a roundtable call with Black journalists, Leader Schumer said that there is “division” in the ranks of Latinx federal lawmakers on the Hill. Some are supportive of statehood for Puerto Rico and others are seeking different options. 

Congressmen Ritchie Torres (D-NY) is supportive of statehood for Puerto Rico and wants to end “colonialism.” He contends this plan not only gives Puerto Rico representation in the House and Senate, but it will provide additional money for benefits like SNAP, Pell Grants, Medicare and Medicaid.

“If Puerto Rico had statehood, it would have five members of the House of Representatives, as well as two senators,” Torres tells theGrio. “When you have two senators and five representatives in the House, you are in a much stronger position to secure federal funding.”

Torres thinks the difference in making Puerto Rico a state “would mean billions of dollars in new funding.”

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) speaks at a press conference endorsing New York City Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang on January 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

In some instances, not granting Puerto Rico statehood could leave the country in dire straits.  

According to Torres, without federal representation, Puerto Rico lacks financial control, but as a state, the island would have more sovereignty over its funds. He pointed to the PROMESA bill of 2016, introduced by Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, as the root cause for the case for statehood hinging on financial autonomy. 

“The law that establishes the financial control board to handle the debt crisis, deprives Puerto Rico of self governance. It has deepened colonialism in Puerto Rico,” Torres said.

In 2020, Puerto Rico voted on a referendum for statehood, which showed the majority of those on the island are in favor. Among the four Puerto Rican members of Congress, Torres is one of half who shares the opinion that statehood is “the only escape from colonialism,” and that a vote on statehood is democracy in action. 

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