This week marks the 103-year anniversary of the enactment of the Jones-Shafroth Act – a law providing Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship.
In practice this means that 3.4 million of our fellow citizens have been denied a democratic form of government for more than a century and are voiceless in Washington even though they pay federal taxes and have served in every major U.S. military engagement since World War I.
This solemn anniversary should compel Washington lawmakers to act.
Unfortunately, some of my fellow Republicans oppose statehood because they are convinced that it will result in a huge political windfall for the Democratic Party in the U.S. Congress.
For proof, it’s worth remembering what political pundits and the chattering class said about President Trump in 2016: Latinos will simply not vote for a candidate who talks openly about securing the border and deportation. But by the time election results surfaced, President-elect Trump had performed better with Latinos than Mitt Romney in 2012, capturing close to 30 percent of the vote.
Writing it off as a fluke, the same political class predicted that Latino support for President Trump would wane once he was in office. But just like last time, they were wrong.
Today recent polling reveals that President Trump is likely to win anywhere between 25-30 percent of the Latino vote in this November’s presidential election. And with a historic-low Latino unemployment rate and the presidential campaign’s planning a significant investment in Latino outreach, it is entirely plausible to imagine President Trump winning 35 percent of the vote.
The point here is that Latino voting patterns are not predictable.
Puerto Rico is no different.
For starters, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the current Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico and the lone representative from the territory to the U.S. Congress is a member of the Republican Party. It is reasonable to conclude that she would assume one of the island’s two seats in the U.S. Senate.
Additionally, it’s worth remembering that Puerto Ricans are typically more social conservatives than Democrats in the mainland with one poll finding that Puerto Rican voters in Florida support traditional marriage. Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. territory have been known to vote for Republicans in years past, including former Puerto Rican governor Luis Fortuño.
Politics aside, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle should support statehood because the people of Puerto Rico want it. Just a few years ago, an overwhelming majority of Puerto Rican citizens voted for statehood. With nearly all of the precincts reporting, 97 percent of the ballots cast were in favor of statehood.
The good news is that more and more Republicans and conservatives are realizing that it is wrong to oppose Puerto Rican statehood based on the myth that it will result in a political windfall for the Democratic Party.
They include lawmakers like Florida Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott who have expressed support for Puerto Rican statehood. And just a couple of years ago, nearly two dozen Republican House members co-sponsored Puerto Rican statehood legislation including Reps. Joe Wilson (S.C.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Elise Stefanik (N.Y.).
It’s time other Republicans on Capitol Hill join them. The party of Lincoln should reject the notion that our ideas have limited appeal. Let’s instead look at Puerto Rican statehood as an opportunity to grow our conservative movement. And in the process, we can support federalism, democratic government and self-governance.
Ivan Garcia-Hidalgo is a Republican consultant and the host and executive producer of Battleground, and La Politica on Americano TV.