By: Libby Julia
As Bill H.R. 2499 or the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010 was passed by a 223-169 vote in the House of Representatives and is on its way to the Senate I am wondering how it affects me and if I, as a new resident, should have a right to affect it.
The bill authorizes the Puerto Rican government to conduct an initial plebiscite giving the voters the following options:
1. Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of political status or
2. Puerto Rico should have a different political status.
If the majority of voters choose the first option, the Puerto Rican government can conduct additional plebiscites in 8 year intervals. If the majority of the voters choose the second option a second plebiscite is conducted with the following options:
1. Independence: Puerto Rico should become fully independent from the United States
2. Sovereignty in Association with the United States: Puerto Rico and the United States should form a political association between sovereign nations that will not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution
3. Statehood: Puerto Rico should be admitted as a State of the Union
4. Commonwealth: Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of political status.
As the bill does not further explain the results of the second plebiscite, it is essentially an authorization to conduct a survey of the Puerto Rican people giving them a voice in this issue for the first time in their 112-year relationship with the United States.
As I read the details of the bill I wonder, “But is every person who calls themselves Puerto Rican qualified to be part of this decision? Am I?” The bill itself states that only residents of Puerto Rico and those who are U.S. citizens but were born here are eligible to vote, but do these two groups make up the best informed voters for this particular issue?
Two of my siblings were born here but have been U.S. citizens since they were children. Are they qualified to make this decision based solely on their birthplace? I wasn’t born in Puerto Rico but lived here for part of my childhood and though I hadn’t set foot on the island since I left prior to moving back in late October 2009, I live here now and am slowly becoming an official resident. Am I qualified?
More often than not I still feel as if I am an American living in a foreign country. I am learning the customs and culture that were not always taught in my home but it takes more than six months to become immersed in a culture and its customs. I don’t think that any Puerto Rican who is not fully educated in the Puerto Rican language, customs, culture and politics should be qualified to take part in this vote. When it comes down to affecting the lives of an entire country of people who work each day to make the country what it is, just feeling Puerto Rican national pride isn’t enough.
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