Should Puerto Ricans In The U.S. Be Allowed To Vote On The Island’s Status

puerto_ricos_statusWe rarely judge someone’s Latino street cred, but if your Puerto Rican and have never had a family argument around politics- we doubt your “Boriquaness.” The majority of us can relate to these family spats, and thus began a recent heated disagreement between me and my father.

Our loud exchange of words began over the issue of Puerto Rico’s self-determination. Should Puerto Ricans like my dad be allowed to vote, while living in the U.S., on the status of Puerto Rico? What about 2nd and 3rd generation Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. who never lived on the island?

Papi, does make a good point in believing that his generation should and you can see why someone from his generation would. Dad is 73 and moved to the U.S. in his 20’s. Like many in his group, he has maintained strong ties with the island. He considers himself, first a Puerto Rican and then an American. Dad has brothers and sisters living on the island and visits frequently.

The new generation has less of an argument, other than the political one (more on that in a sec). We were born here in the U.S. or came as children. Similar to the argument of why DREAMERS deserve citizenship, we, the next gen-Ricans have known only the U.S. as our home. Still we feel a strong connection to our culture and mother-land; but is that enough to give us political power over a decision that will not effect us directly?

It seems that those living in the U.S. who wish to vote on Puerto Rico’s status are only doing so for political reasons. While the independent movement has had little recent traction on the island, U.S. Puerto Ricans especially in major cities like New York and Chicago have a strong pro-independence lean. The political effect of U.S. Puerto Ricans voting on the island’s status could have a decisive effect on the vote. While I don’t challenge this (heck I’m for independence personally), I do disagree with the fundamental issue of people having a say over a place were they do not live.

We are all pre-disposed to thinking of what will benefits us politically, but in a true democracy it is crucial to allow self-determination and jurisdiction to prevail. There are, and should be very limited exceptions to this rule. We can see this in issues of civil rights, were a state is imposing un-equal laws upon their citizens; but that is not the case here. Most people will simply say-

If you care so much about voting for the status of Puerto Rico, why don’t you move there?

That is a very fair argument and we can see this played out in U.S. politics regularly. While we in Illinois may wish to change the laws in Texas, we would cry fowl if Texans were given the right to vote on (let’s say something controversial like) anti-choice laws for Illinois.

Perhaps exceptions could be made based on individuals who owned property in Puerto Rico, but at the end of the day residency should trump all other factors. What we should do is continue to raise the issue and get our elected officials in Washington to pay attention to our island.