San Juan, Puerto Rico – April 16, 2031
The United States just gained its newest state, and may soon have up to 56 states. Dual ceremonies took place today in Washington, DC and San Juan, PR to mark this momentous day. Puerto Rico is the first new state added in 72 years. In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th US states, respectively.
The push for statehood goes back years, but the Puerto Rican Status Referendum of 2012, along with the later Referendum of 2017 started the process rolling. Not much was done until current president Tulsi Gabbard made the statehood of US territories one of the positions she ran on. After becoming president in early 2029, President Gabbard started work on this process. Puerto Rico, having already chosen statehood for itself, was fast-tracked before the others. Five other non-state entities were given referenda shortly thereafter, and all passed. Thus, it seems likely that after Puerto Rico, the next states will be American Samoa (Ms. Gabbard’s birthplace), the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands.
The day has come when Puerto Rico joins 50 other states in a more perfect union. Puerto Ricans are excited to become full-fledged American citizens with federal voting rights.
– Puerto Rican Governor Isabella Rodriguez
This comes at a time when the “E Pluribus Unum” campaign is in full swing. This campaign is more inward-looking, and aims to focus on the United States and slow outside immigration of unskilled migrants, while creating greater equality between regions under US government control. As part of that, all US states gain a degree of extra autonomy and territories become states. Even so, major environmental policies and labor laws are strengthened at the federal level. What these policies are able to achieve in Puerto Rico, which has historically had lower income levels, is yet to be seen. To help with the adjustment, the federal minimum wage in Puerto Rico will be ramped up over the next 20 years to eventually be in line with the rest of the country. Also, while these territories are set to become full states, a new law implements a passport check between all states that are not contiguous with other states. This law was actually proposed by the Northern Mariana Islands as a condition for entry to statehood, so Chinese tourists could continue to enter without needing a visa. This law also specifies that visitors who enter without visas cannot apply for asylum in the United States upon visiting a non-contiguous state.
While many have been pleased with the idea of six more states, some are worried and others believe that this was done for purely political reasons. For example, Puerto Rico has a crime rate that now makes it the most crime-prone US state by a wide margin. While the Puerto Rican state governemnt agreed to (and in fact requested) increased law enforcement, it is yet to be seen whether crime will decrease. One counter to this worry is that Puerto Ricans have always been able to travel freely to the other United States and settle down, so this change is likely to not only not harm other states, but help Puerto Ricans with their security. The criticism of political motivations is more difficult to quash, as Tulsi Gabbard is popular in all six of these regions. However, the five other potential states are not likely to join the union before the 2032 election, in which Gabbard will be vying for another term. Thus, although the Unity Party may gain support in the future, Tulsi Gabbard can only count on Puerto Rico helping to re-elect her. (Currently, she has a 62% approval rating there.)
The Puerto Rican governor Isabella Rodriguez was elated at statehood, saying, “The day has come when Puerto Rico joins 50 other states in a more perfect union. Puerto Ricans are excited to become full-fledged American citizens with federal voting rights.”
Picture: “Puerto Rico Flag”, by Madden