Don’t start stitching that 51st star on the American flag just yet. Although 97 percent of voters in a Puerto Rico referendum on June 11 voted to start down the path of statehood, the chance of the island becoming a state is still, at best, a long shot.
Optimism was the word of the day among supporters of Puerto Rico statehood after this most recent victory, in this high-profile plebiscite. Among revelers waving American flags Sunday night, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello—the leader of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party—echoed sentiments that the referendum’s message was clear. “The United States of America will have to obey the will of our people!,” he told the crowd.
On the mainland, the jubilation continued to reverberate. In a statement on Monday, Congressman José E. Serrano, who was born in Puerto Rico, celebrated the results of the plebiscite and claimed it as final proof that “Congress has a duty to listen and act upon these results so that Puerto Rico can be decolonized once and for all.”
That same day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged the vote as a first step, saying “now that the people have spoken in Puerto Rico, this is something that Congress has to address.” To that end, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting Resident Commissioner in the House of Representatives, Jenniffer González, is drafting a statehood bill, and statehood advocates have been making the rounds on the Hill this week imploring Congress to move the matter forward.