"P.R. PRESENTS BETTER STATEHOOD CASE THAN D.C."
THE SAN JUAN STAR, VIEWPOINT, SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15, 1996, PAGE 146.
I read recently in the STAR a report from Washington to the effect that the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., is still seeking the statehood status which was approved in 1982 in a constitutional convention with 53 percent of the Districts residents voting for statehood.
It was also reported that in November 1993, a District statehood bill was defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives 277 to 153, and that 40 percent of Democrats (the party that has backed the Districts statehood) voted against the bill, which may or may not say something about Republican votes in Congress for this islands statehood, which has received GOP platform support. It was also said that five years ago, the New York Times and the Washington Post advocated statehood for the District and that Puerto Ricos statehood movement was seen as helping the Districts statehood chances since it would bring awareness of the situation in both jurisdictions.
It was further pointed out that political analysts have noted that President Clinton apparently has ignored the Districts plight for statehood. As will be seen later in this writing, such perception is not in line with Clintons previous statements on the district status.
An article which appeared recently in the STAR referred to the above-mentioned report indicating the Districts plight to become the 51st state, and the following question was asked: Who makes a better case for statehood, Puerto Rico, where statehood has not yet won a referendum, or the District of Columbia, where 53 percent of its residents voted for statehood? It is my judgement that Puerto Rico presents a better case for statehood because Puerto Rico is not Washington, D.C., as will be indicated in the following analysis.
This is not the first time the issue of the Districts statehood in relation to Puerto Rico has been brought to light. On June 17, 1993 at proposed status consultation legislation hearings, Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barceló, replying to assertions by Sen. Marco Rigau that Congress had rejected statehood for the District, said that the case of the District was different from that of Puerto Rico because statehood for the District required a constitutional amendment.
With the above in mind, I wish to remind the readers of some things indicated in one of my columns three years ago on the issue of the Districts statehood plight.
nOn November 7, 1992, at a panel discussion on "The World Today," a CNN program on the subject of the Districts statehood possibilities, the then President-elect Clinton said: "I would be in a state of permanent outrage if I thought that I represented people who would be sent to fight and die for their country who had no full citizenship."
nAt the panel discussion in reference, Kathleen Koch, CNN Washington, D.C. correspondent said that Clintons presidential victory was "a giant leap for the future of the District and that as in the case of Alaska and Hawaii, it would take a simple majority of Congress to make the District a state."
nIn 1991, Clinton testified he preferred a bill for statehood over a constitutional amendment, but promised statehood for the District either way.
nCongressional Dana Rohrabacher (CAL-D) indicated at the panel that statehood for the District was not going to be easy and said: "Our founding fathers, in fact, set up the capitol in an area that was independent of any state. That was their intention. If we are going to so fundamentally change the intent of the founding fathers, then I think it should require a constitutional amendment."
nSome members of Congress have argued that because the District was once part of Maryland, it should revert back to that state if the residents of the District want to shed their colonial status.
nOther members of Congress believe the District cannot become a state without a constitutional amendment because the Constitution requires that there be federated district controlled by Congress to make the federal district any size it wants up to 10 square miles.
It can be seen by the above that there is no easy road to statehood for the District of Columbia. Unlike the case of Puerto Rico, there seems to be every indication that statehood for the District will require a constitutional amendment. So, Puerto Rico is not Washington, D.C. except for one thing: if new legislation is introduced in Congress to grant the District statehood, one thing will be highlighted which might strengthen Puerto Ricos request for statehood. Those who believe and have already said that President Clinton would oppose statehood for Puerto Rico, must take note of Clintons criteria in 1992 to suggest statehood for the District. Should he fail to apply his criteria to Puerto Ricos plight for statehood, he certainly would be doing a monumental and unforgivable injustice to the 200,000 Puerto Ricans killed in action or wounded, or now permanently disabled as a result of their participation in the wars in which the United States has been involved.
As I said a few years ago and repeat now, with due respect to the Districts participation in the aforementioned wars, I dont think D.C. can match our participation. In fact our contribution in these wars has been greater than that of 22 states of the Union, including President Clintons state of Arkansas.
In conclusion, if as President Clinton said in the case of D.C., that he could not conceive of him representing people who would be sent to fight and die for their country who did not have the full rights of the U.S. citizenship, it will be equally inconceivable to continue sending Puerto Ricans to fight and die for the nation without enjoying the full rights of their U.S. citizenship, under the real permanent union with the U.S., which is Puerto Rico becoming a state of the Union.