Opinion | Make Puerto Rico a state

It’s past time Puerto Rico gets the respect and dignity it deserves from the U.S. government.

People+stop+to+take+photos+of+the+flooded+cobblestone+on+River+Street+Monday+afternoon.+Chatham+Emergency+Management+Agency+said+while+Hurricane+Irma+brought+Savannah+less+debris+that+Hurricane+Matthew%2C+the+flooding+from+the+Irma+has+been+worse.

Will Peebles / USA TODAY NETWORK

People stop to take photos of the flooded cobblestone on River Street Monday afternoon. Chatham Emergency Management Agency said while Hurricane Irma brought Savannah less debris that Hurricane Matthew, the flooding from the Irma has been worse.

Evan Weidl, Opinions Columnist


When former President Donald Trump launched rolls of paper towels into a crowd of desperate vic­tims of Hurricane Maria in 2017, it was a perfect representation of how the U.S. treats its territory of Puerto Rico — with ne­glect and carelessness.

Two weeks ago, Hur­ricane Fiona devastated the island. Thousands of people are still without power and water, and bil­lions of dollars in damag­es have been caused. Just five years ago, Hurricane Maria caused even greater destruction. The response from the U.S. govern­ment was inadequate, and Puerto Rico never fully recovered as a result.

The U.S. failure to look after the people of Puerto Rico has gone on for far too long, and the federal government must treat them with the same dig­nity as any other part of the states.

Our failure to care for Puerto Rico is evident in our lackluster responses to its natural disasters.

For Hurricane Irma and Harvey, which hit the U.S. in the same year Hurricane Maria hit Puer­to Rico, there were over 30,000 federal personnel on site in the days after landfall. Puerto Rico nev­er even saw 20,000 per­sonnel in the days after Hurricane Maria.

While Hurricane Ma­ria caused around as many direct deaths as Hurricane Harvey, Maria caused almost 3,000 indi­rect deaths compared to 35 by Harvey.

The U.S. is more than capable of providing the relief Puerto Rico needs after disasters. Not doing so is a policy choice.

While the U.S. has claimed Puerto Rico as a territory for over 100 years, it has never grant­ed the terroritory suffi­cient representation in Congress.

Puerto Rico elects a res­ident commissioner that stands as its authorized representative before the federal government. While the resident com­missioner is technically a member of Congress, its power is far from equal to that of other members of Congress.

For example, the res­ident commissioner has limited voting powers. They are only allowed to vote in committees they are part of and in the fi­nal passing of any bills. In addition, there is no ap­portionment of districts by population, meaning the resident commission­er represents five times as many people as the aver­age member of the House.

This lack of representa­tion is wholly unjust and anti-democratic. If our policies and laws affect and apply equally to ev­eryone, there is no reason why they should not have equal representation.

To fix these injustices, Puerto Rico should be granted statehood. State­hood would allow them to see billions of dollars worth of benefits instant­ly, such as through Medi­care and Medicaid. Puerto Rico would have fair rep­resentation.

Residents of Puerto Rico pay federal taxes to the U.S. If the U.S. gov­ernment is going to con­tinue to make Puerto Ri­cans pay taxes, it is only fair that Puerto Ricans see a return on their tax­es via benefits and assis­tance.

Puerto Rico is already extremely tied to the U.S. because it is a territory, so it will be able to enjoy the benefits of statehood without making too many drastic changes.

If the U.S. intends on keeping its claim to Puer­to Rico as a territory, it must give Puerto Ricans the respect and decency they deserve and grant them full rights and pro­tections as U.S. citizens through giving Puerto Rico statehood.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


 

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