Statehood for D.C. and Self-Determination for Puerto Rico

Statehood for D.C. 

  • D.C has more residents than states such as Vermont and Wyoming, and both of these states have voting power in Congress.

  • Statehood would grant D.C the representation it deserves in Congress as well as full control of its local affairs.

    • D.C is currently only allowed a non-voting representative in congress who can only draft legislation.

    • In 2008, D.C was prohibited from spending funds on lobbying for voting representation and statehood.

  • Solomon supports The Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51) to ensure that Washignton, D.C. has representation in congress and is equal with all other US states. Under this bill the new state would be named Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, and a small section will be left as Washington, District of Columbia to include “the principal Federal monuments, the White House, the Capitol Building, the United States Supreme Court Building, and the Federal executive, legislative, and judicial office buildings located adjacent to the Mall and the Capitol Building.” D.C. will receive 2 Senators and 1 Representative based off of its current population and will be “admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the other States in all respects whatever.”

  • Solomon’s Position on Puerto Rico:

    • Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898 and this has caused an immense amount of political instability in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans are regarded as second class citizens within their own territory. Puerto Rico was first allowed to democratically elect their own governor in 1948. 

    • Solomon advocates for the immediate removal of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Stability Act, which gives the United States complete control over Puerto Rico’s finances. The board overseeing Puerto Rico’s finances should be disbanded. He believes that the United States should help repay its debts to Puerto Rico, not micromanage their money. 

    • Solomon supports the ability for Puerto Rico to self-determine their governmental status. Whether this be independence, keeping the commonwealth status, or statehood, the United States Congress must respect whatever the island decides. 

    • Solomon also supports self-determination for American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas Islands, US Virgin Islands

    • If the islands choose to become independent, Solomon advocates that the U.S. aid the territories in their transition, with the help of self-appointed leadership, with no strings attached. If the territory decides to stay a commonwealth or become a state, Solomon supports increased funding and task forces to deal with the unique situation and immense devastation caused by the U.S. power dynamic with PR. 

  • History of Puerto Rico

    • Christopher Columbus invaded Puerto Rico in 1493 and named the island San Juan Batista. The island was settled by the Spanish in 1508, and the Indigenous Taino people were forcibly converted to Christianity, and most Taino people either died at the hands of the Spanish or forcibly assimilated. African slaves were also brought to Puerto Rico to perform forced labor. 

    • The island was a colony of Spain for 400 years, and was free of colonial rule for only eight months until American forces invaded in 1898. The U.S. gained control of Puerto Rico from Spain after the Spanish-American war and the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Since then, the relationship between Puerto Rico and the American government has been one riddled with paternalism and colonialism. 

    • Even though Puerto Rico is under the control of the American Government, the island does not have many of the same rights as the states. More history on Puerto Rico can be found here

  • What is “The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico”

    • There are 3.1 Million residents of Puerto Rico -- a larger number than 20 U.S. states. Puerto Rico is defined as an “incorporated commonwealth.” Puerto Ricans have U.S. citizenship, residence in the U.S., and exemption from federal taxes as long as their income is not generated from an interstate enterprise. The island has elections for local issues and determining governors as well as a bicameral legislature, although ultimately are under the authority of Congress and the U.S. government. Puerto Ricans also pay into Social Security and are thus eligible for its benefits. 

    • However, Puerto Rico cannot vote for presidents in general elections, unless an individual establishes residency in one of the 50 states. Puerto Rico also relies on the dollar, which means that the Federal Reserve can regulate the money supply and interest rates in the Puerto Rican economy.

    • Puerto Rico can not control its own “interstate trade, foreign relations and commerce, customs administration, control of air, land and sea, immigration and emigration, nationality and citizenship, currency, maritime laws, military service, military bases, army, navy and air force, declaration of war, constitutionality of laws, jurisdictions and legal procedures, treaties, radio and television--communications, agriculture, mining and minerals, highways, postal system” (citation). 

      • Due to these rules and regulations, Puerto Rico’s most important trading partner is the U.S., which means that a significant portion of its economy is reliant on the state of financial affairs in the U.S.  

    • Even though Puerto Rico heavily relies on the U.S. and America governs the commonwealth, the island has little federal representation as a result of its non-statehood. The island has no senators or voting representatives, and the residents of Puerto Rico can not vote for the President that controls their livelihoods. Instead, it has a Resident Commissioner, who has limited voting privileges. This results in a great deficit between the representation that Americans living in the 50 states have and those who live in Puerto Rico. 

    • The United States is a federal system, in which the national government and subunits should work with each other. Unfortunately for Puerto Rico, much of its existence has been as a subunit bound to follow US laws and regulations that it gets no say in developing. It is tantamount to a state with no rights, which directly runs against the ideals of the Founders. Consequently, it is no surprise that Puerto Rico does not receive adequate funding and has specific hurdles to overcome. 

  • Current Condition of Puerto Rico

    • The poverty rate in Puerto Rico was 43.1% in 2018, which was over three times the US national average (13.1%) and over twice that of our poorest state, Mississippi (19.7%).

    • Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate consistently stayed above 8 percent--much higher than the unemployment rate elsewhere in the United States. Puerto Rico has no economic autonomy. It cannot enter the global market because it is a part of the United States. It cannot advocate for its needs because citizens do not have a say in presidential elections since territories do not qualify for electoral college votes. Nor is their resident commissioner, Puerto Rico’s United States congressional representative, able to vote on congressional bills. 

      • This disparity is the product of a relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico that is not mutually beneficial. The United States reaps most of the benefits, while PR is disadvantaged.  

      • The only thing Puerto Rico has authority over is its own internal affairs, and even then, the US gets involved in specific circumstances (public health and pollution).

    • In addition to poverty, Puerto Rico’s lack of funding for healthcare programs breeds health disparities.

        • Unlike U.S. states, Puerto Rico does not have a state health insurance marketplace or access to the federal marketplace, where individuals can buy coverage.

          • Instead, they get additional Medicaid dollars, but it is simply not enough. Puerto Rico faces a ceiling of a mere 55% of expenditures, even though this report shows that it should receive 83%. That is a funding gap of 877 million dollars. 

        • If Puerto Rico votes for independence, Solomon supports sending Puerto Rico additional federal healthcare aid packages. Solomon believes it is the United States’ duty to invest in proper healthcare infrastructure in Puerto Rico, so that they do not fall behind as they navigate their newfound independence. If PR decides to become a state or stay a territory, Solomon adamantly supports including them in Medicare for All and reinvigorating their health infrastructure.

    • Education

      • Puerto Rico’s lack of representation or autonomy compounds into educational disparities, setting back future generations of its citizens. This creates a self-reinforcing cycle of poverty that Solomon believes the US must break. 

        • Puerto Rico is behind the US in many educational metrics. Tertiary education rates (bachelors’ or higher) are ten percentage points lower in PR than the USA. Net enrollment rates in secondary education were 13.9 percentage points lower in PR than the USA. 

        • There is a clear divide between private and public education in PR. This also reflects the large-scale privatization efforts in the territory. Solomon believes this divide drives socioeconomic inequality in PR, and must be addressed.

        • Solomon supports increasing US investment in Puerto Rico’s primary and secondary public education system. Solomon believes increasing the quality of public educational institutions in PR will lead to a higher quality of life in PR, and if PR votes to become independent, the U.S. still has a responsibility to offer to provide educational funding considering the long history of paternalism and failure to adequately fund PR. 

    • Effects of Climate Change on Puerto Rico:

      • Warmer climate results in increased evaporation and convection in places like Puerto Rico. This increases the formation of thunderstorms. Fueled by warmer waters, these storms rapidly combine to form hurricanes that can be extremely damaging and unpredictable. Hurricanes as severe as Hurricane Maria are becoming more common as the Earth continues to warm. 

      • Other effects of climate change on Puerto Rico include, but are not limited to: 

        • Rising sea levels due to increased melting of ice and glaciers at the poles. Sea level may rise up to three feet in Puerto Rico in the next hundred years. 

        • Increased flooding from rainstorms.

        • Drought during the early spring and summer due to changes in weather patterns.

        • Destruction of coral reefs.

        • Destruction of food sources, such as shellfish due to ocean acidification. If nothing changes, acid concentrations around Puerto Rico will increase by forty to fifty percent at the end of the century. 

        • Elimination of wildlife, plants, and resources needed by inhabitants of Puerto Rico to establish self-sufficiency.

        • Decreased agricultural productivity. 

        • Decreased health of citizens of Puerto Rico that increases their susceptibility to diseases and infections like cancer, vibriosis, and COVID-19. 

      • Solomon believes that the United States has committed an act of environmental injustice toward the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In order to enact change, the effects of climate change on Puerto Rico and all US territories must be acknowledged and accepted by Congress. 

      • The United States should have acted to prevent the economic and environmental crisis in Puerto Rico decades ago. Solomon  argues that PR’s lack of preparedness for disaster is the fault of corrupt politics in Washington. 

    • Hurricane Maria and FEMA:

      • In 2017, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria caused catastrophic damage on United States soil. Harvey caused widespread flooding, worsened by its flooding crisis caused by accelerating expansion of development.

      • Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status negatively affected the aid given to the territory after Hurricane Maria

        • It took four months for aid to Puerto Rico to reach $1 billion dollars, whereas Texas had received $1.29 billion in relief aid and Florida had received $889 million in only two months. FEMA sent at a maximum of 19,000 employees to work in Puerto Rico post-Maria and a maximum of 31,000 employees to work in Texas post-Harvey (within six months after each hurricane). During the first six months after each Hurricane, Congress passed bills giving more than $15.25 billion in disaster aid to Texas and Florida and $4.9 billion to Puerto Rico. As of February 2018, the death toll for Maria was 2975. The death toll for Harvey was 65 direct and 35 indirect. The death toll for Irma was four direct and 80 indirect.

        • The United States allocated more resources and people for the disaster response in Texas and Florida than it did in Puerto Rico, despite the clear indications that Puerto Rico needed the most aid. Texas and Florida were subjected to less strict requirements for approval of federal aid than Puerto Rico.

        • According to the New York Times, 60% of Puerto Rican residents were denied FEMA aid because they could not prove home ownership (a requirement listed on the FEMA website) to the government. Solomon believes that this is outrageous. Residents could not prove home ownership because all sources of proof were destroyed in the hurricane. Solomon believes that this requirement should be removed. Solomon also believes that requirements for FEMA aid should be equitable, regardless of territorial status. 

      • The Trump administration’s response to Puerto Rico is blatantly racist. The United States government refuses to recognize its role in the economic fall of Puerto Rico. Maria greatly affected PR’s tourism industry. Without a source of liquidity, Puerto Rico could not provide its own disaster relief. The government’s hesitation to allow Puerto Rico to receive monetary aid because they thought Puerto Rico was hiding liquid cash would never happen with disaster relief in any state. Solomon believes that this incident is reminiscent of racist colonialism, and is not acceptable. All United States territories should receive FEMA aid regardless of “questionable financial balance.” This is an effective and equitable response that takes into account the harms of imperialism in each territory.

        • For a more detailed description of how the aid is being used and distributed in Puerto Rico, please visit the FEMA website

      • Puerto Rico’s status as a “territory” or “commonwealth” has made it unable to fund its post-disaster recovery and reconstruction, which enforces a toxic dependence relationship with the United States.

        • The crisis on debt has prevented Puerto Rico from being able to recover on its own from major events of mother nature, such as Hurricane Maria.

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PAID FOR BY SOLOMON RAJPUT FOR CONGRESS

P.O. Box 980133, Ypsilanti, MI 48198