Author: benw

Puerto Rico Should Seek American Statehood

CON (3 arguments)

Weighing Mechanism:

We believe this debate should be weighed on what’s best for both the people of Puerto Rico AND the people of the United States.

1. Puerto Rico would burden the United States welfare system.

If Puerto Rico become a state, then all the unemployed and struggling Puerto Ricans (whom are now US citizens) will be eligible for welfare and other financial aid services. Granting Puerto Rico American statehood, money would have to come OUT of the US treasury, and into the hands of millions of new citizens. In Puerto Rico there are approximately 430,000 unemployed citizens right now. About 12.10 percent of their total population. If Puerto Rico were to become the 51st US state, then all of those people would be entitled to welfare and other forms of financial aid.  Furthermore, Puerto Rico's per capita income of $8,509 is less than one third of the US average, and about one half that of Mississippi, the poorest state. The cost of Puerto Rican statehood as $9.4 billion in the first four years, and our weak US economy can't handle that. These costs do not include matters like government and court translation expenses should Puerto Rico declare itself to be a solely Spanish-speaking land. Nor does it include the costs to the U.S. Treasury of as many as seven representatives and two Senators whose continuance in office will depend on their pleasing an impoverished constituency. Overall, the cost of Puerto Rico’s admission as a state is much too high.


If Puerto Rico becomes the 51st American state, our government would potentially have to give 430 THOUSAND people money for financial aid. This money could be used for a variety of things that could benefit the America as it is today.  Clearly neither the United States nor Puerto Rico can afford Puerto Rican statehood, and it makes no sense for Puerto Rico to enter into such an unstable relationship where resentment against Puerto Rico (and Puerto Ricans living in the US) will breed fast.

2. Granting Puerto Rico statehood could shift the current political scene for the worse.

If the US were to make Puerto Rico a state, Puerto Rico would now be allowed equal representation in both the House and the Senate. While their representation would be small, due to the island’s small population, the ramifications of those votes could be huge. Adding two new Senators to the Senate could be especially problematic, since the majority of the Puerto Rican population identify as Conservatives. All making Puerto Rico a state would do is give it much more power as a swing state then it truly deserves. According to Laura Matthews in the International Business Times, due to the political climate in Puerto Rico, the admission of it as a state would shift power in both the House and the Senate. Matthews writes that “Should it get statehood, Puerto Rico could be the next swing state. There are already talks that if the island got two senators and at least one representative, if it becomes a state, the balance of Congress could shift.” Even Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock sees Puerto Rico’s admission into the Union as a serious difference maker in politics. McClintock said that “Unfortunately Puerto Rico will be a swing state. We won't identify with Democrats or Republicans”. This means that there would be a whole new addition to political primaries and elections, forever shifting the outcome of future elections.


The impact here is clear. If Puerto Rico became a state, the balance that currently exists between Democrats and Republicans would be upset. Additionally, with two new Senators who lean conservative on social issues, the US can expect more regressive social policies to be enacted.

3. Due to linguistic and cultural differences within Puerto Rico, granting its statehood would destroy their cultural identity and be virtually impossible to achieve full assimilation due to linguistic barriers.

Puerto Rico should not become an American state because linguistic and cultural differences continue to divide the other 50 states and Puerto Rico. This would mean that Puerto Rico would either not fit into the union, or it would lose its distinct cultural identity.

Historically the US has pursued 'Americanization' campaigns there, focusing especially around imposing the use of the English language and casting aside 'old values'. This policy was deeply resented and strongly resisted by most Puerto Ricans, and it failed. Thus, after 91 years of intimate association, Puerto Rico remains a separate cultural nationality. A recent study conducted by The University of Puerto Rico proved that less than 10 PERCENT of the Puerto Rican population speak advanced English. Also, another survey found that out of the 5,000 Puerto Ricans surveyed, only 39% of them said they would like to spend time learning English.  Furthermore in terms of national identity, Puerto Rico joining the US would result in it losing the semi-independent identity which it currently has in the eyes of much of the world. To name but two examples, Puerto Rico would no longer have its own representative in the Miss Universe Pageant (which Puerto Rico has actually won on three occasions) and they would not be recognized as an individual nation in the Olympic games, as it currently is. These international representations would be curbed under statehood, as Puerto Rico would be required to participate in the same manner as the other 50 states, and to compete to represent the United States collectively, and not Puerto Rico individually.

Changing language policies would also undermine Puerto Rican culture: the territories that became Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma (who all had large and historically rooted non-English-speaking populations) were all admitted to the union by congressional enabling acts that required that “schools shall always be conducted in English” in order to ensure assimilation. This would likely also be the case with Puerto Rico, and could undermine the access of future generations of Puerto Ricans to their Hispanic heritage and culture, subsuming it within the overpowering tide of English-speaking American culture.


Thus the Puerto Rican people are highly independent and have immense pride in their district and rich Latin culture and Spanish language, and they should not be deprived of that culture, which statehood would arguably contribute towards.