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Democrat Bill Would Offer Puerto Rico All The Benefits Of U.S. Citizenship With None Of The Obligations

Painting of Puerto Rico flag on the side of a building.
Image CreditJo Kassis/Pexels

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., and Steny Hoyer, D-Md., are pushing the Puerto Rico Status Act, which could grant the territory double benefits of independence and U.S. citizenship for life.

The draft of the bill seeks to “enable the people of Puerto Rico to choose a permanent, nonterritorial, fully self-governing political status for Puerto Rico and to provide for a transition to and the implementation of that permanent, nonterritorial, fully self-governing political status.”

Puerto Rico’s most widely circulated newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, stated Wednesday that “the Democratic leadership and Puerto Rican Federal legislators reached a final agreement last night on the bill that will be introduced in the House of Representatives to propose a Federal plebiscite between statehood, free association and independence.”

The possible options proposed in the bill for Puerto Rico are statehood, independence, or a variation of independence with “free association” with the United States. Three nations currently have this latter status — the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands — but the U.S. did not give these nations the option of independence with U.S. citizenship.

The bill’s options do not include maintaining Puerto Rico’s current status as a U.S. territory. If passed, more than 3 million Puerto Ricans will maintain both their U.S. and Puerto Rican citizenship. They will continue to reap financial benefits — funded by taxpayer dollars — without having to pay any taxes to the United States government.

The bill will also provide “an objective, non-partisan, federally funded education campaign leading up to the vote,” Rep. Velázquez said in a May press conference. “It authorizes the necessary funds to carry out a non-partisan voter education campaign and a national plebiscite and if necessary, a run-off plebiscite.”

“In addition to citizenship, this bill under both independence options would give the new nation of Puerto Rico a block grant equal to all the monies granted to the territory or its citizens during the year before nationhood for ten years,” explained journalist Alice Stewart. “This provision would make the value greater than current spending because there would be no Federal requirements. Finally, after year eleven, the grant would supposedly be reduced by 10% a year.”

If the bill passes, it schedules a plebiscite vote in Puerto Rico for Nov. 5, 2023. If no majority consensus is reached, Puerto Rico’s status would be decided during a March 2024 runoff election. There have been no hearings yet on this bill.

If its citizens so choose, it’s fine for the United States to grant Puerto Rico its independence, but the bill’s overly gratuitous combination of independence plus U.S. dollars and citizenship is another example of Democrats prioritizing other interests when they should be combatting their own self-made crises at home.

This is not a new concept to left-wing lawmakers as they join Biden in spending taxpayers’ money on Ukraine while Americans suffer from record inflation. The Puerto Rico Status Act means more federal grants for Puerto Rico and more taxpayer dollars allocated to non-American interests, while the economic needs of American citizens are put on the back burner once again.