In 1898, thanks to the Spanish-American War, the United States gained control of the island of Puerto Rico. It took more than half a century, however, to clarify that relationship. In 1952, the U.S. declared Puerto Rico a “commonwealth.” This is a different designation than “state.”
On the one hand, Puerto Ricans can:
Claim natural-born U.S. citizenship
Receive Medicaid and Medicare
Vote in Presidential primaries
On the other hand, they cannot:
Vote in Congressional or Presidential elections
Get access to other government programs
Be represented in Congress by a voting legislator
The issue of whether to elevate Puerto Rico to statehood has been raised repeatedly since 1952. In fact, island residents have voted in statehood referendums in: 1967, 1991,1993, 1998 and 2012. In the most recent vote, sentiment on the island turned positive for the first time in voting history: Puerto Ricans want their own state.
Why? Well, the reasons are complicated. Those in favor believe statehood will help Puerto Rico economically—a rationale that gained converts following 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria.
On the mainland, meanwhile, opinion is split. A Rasmussen Reports survey conducted online in March, 2017 found that:
40% of American Adults now believe Puerto Rico should be a state, up from 35% in the fall of 2013. Largely unchanged are the 39% who disagree and the 21% who are undecided.
Even if Puerto Ricans want statehood, it’s ultimately up to Congress. As CNN explains:
To become the 51st state, Congress would have to pass a statute to admit Puerto Rico as a state, and conversations around that possibility have obviously been going on for decades. The generalities of this process are found in the "New States" clause in the US Constitution. Every state after the original 13 colonies has been admitted under this directive.
Although there seems to be seismic attitudinal changes underway, the political process ahead is fraught. As Vox reports:
While Puerto Ricans have been fighting about their political status for decades, Congress has shown little interest in changing anything. Washington lawmakers have introduced more than 130 bills to resolve Puerto Rico’s political status, and none have gone anywhere, said Charles Venator-Santiago, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut. That’s partly because there is no defined process for statehood. “The Constitution doesn’t give direction on how to admit a new state,” says Venator-Santiago.
What do you think? Question resolves positive if Puerto Rico is admitted as a United States state before January 1, 2035.