By: Roger C. Rocha Jr., LULAC National President
Earlier this week, presidential candidate Ben Carson joined Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in voicing support for granting statehood to Puerto Rico. Such support is welcome news to the people of Puerto Rico, who presently are experiencing economic hardship and would benefit greatly from statehood status.
Whatever the candidates’ motivation, the $72 billion debt crisis is an important issue facing Puerto Rico today. Puerto Rico has been in a recession since 2006, with unemployment at 14 percent and the majority of Puerto Ricans living in poverty. Many have moved to the mainland seeking employment opportunities and access to programs and resources that are not available in the territory.
If Puerto Rico obtained statehood status, the territory’s public corporations and municipalities would be allowed to file for bankruptcy. Such a move would enable Puerto Rico to restructure its debt in an organized manner. It would also provide more financial options and benefits that ultimately will help the Puerto Rican people. These benefits include the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the full extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and full reimbursement parity under Medicare and Medicaid.
Since 1917, Puerto Ricans have been recognized as U.S. citizens. In addition, since World War I over 200,000 Puerto Rican men and women have served in the Armed Forces, with nine having received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Puerto Rico has been a territory for 117 years, making the Caribbean island the longest held territory in U.S. history.
A considerable portion of the LULAC membership are U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico who are hard-working loyal Americans. Permitting Puerto Rico statehood status is the best strategy for stabilizing Puerto Rico’s economy. LULAC will continue to keep a focus on the needs of the people of Puerto Rico and work towards a solution to the Puerto Rican debt crisis that benefits the people of Puerto Rico.