CalExit Will Never Happen

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After the election of Donald Trump, many people got irrational, particularly Governor Jerry Brown, and the people of California (who ironically opened an embassy in Moscow in protest). Since then, many people, both in California and across the country, have pushed for the Golden State’s secession. Last Tuesday, California’s Attorney General decided to humor the #CalExit organizers.

Last Tuesday, California Attorney General  Xavier Becerra apparently finished his scotch, said “what the hell,” and gave his stamp of approval for a group of people to begin gathering the more than 585,000 signatures needed to allow a ballot initiative that would allow a ballot initiative calling for secession to be put on the 2018 ballot. If the ballot measure were to somehow pass, a commission would form to explore how the state could secede from the United States, unfortunately, this will never happen. calexit dos.jpg

Secession isn’t a new idea, outside the Civil War, the idea pops up every couple of years, normally in Texas, and at that time realists endlessly mock these attempts, and for good reason, the fact remains that there is no way to secede from the Union written in the Constitution.  Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution deals with how to admit a new state into the country, but the reverse is never discussed, and has been dismissed outright by plenty of respectable legal scholars.

In 2006, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was asked by screenwriter Dan Turkewitz if a group of people suing the government for the right to secede would be a good plot point. Scalia responded saying that state’s do not have the right to secede. In his letter back to Turkewitz, Scalia said that such an issue would never even reach the Supreme Court:

“To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. … Secondly, I find it difficult to envision who the parties to this lawsuit might be. Is the State suing the United States for a declaratory judgment? But the United States cannot be sued without its consent, and it has not consented to this sort of suit.”

Scalia.jpgWhat Justice Scalia pointed out in that first line is something most people don’t realize.  In the eyes of the United States government, there no such thing as the “Confederate States of America.” The southern states, in their mind, were just occupied by hostile citizens. This line of thinking was pointed out in the 1869 Supreme Court case Texas v. White.  This case argued that Texas’s Confederate state legislature had illegally sold bonds that were owned by Texas, and issued by the United States government as part of the compromise of 1850. While ruling on this case, the justices wrote;

“The Constitution, in all its provisions… looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.”

So while Jefferson Davis and his friends may have seen themselves as an independent country, the United States hadn’t given them the go-ahead to secede, so they had no sovereignty. The Civil War was a war for independence, much like the American Revolution was a war for independence. We had to defeat the British before getting the go-ahead to secede; if we had lost, we’d have socialized medicine and a government that doesn’t respect individual rights, and do we really want that?

While it amuses us to think that a state that disagrees with our own core ideologies could soon be gone, it is unlikely to happen. So unfortunately it looks as though referring to San Francisco as a “foreign country” will remain hyperbole.

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Puerto Rico Wants to Be a State

 

 

On Sunday, Puerto Ricans had the opportunity to vote on a referendum that would be the next step in becoming America’s 51st state.  With only a 23% voter participation rate, the referendum passed.

The island, which has been a United States territory since 1898, has been stuck in an economic depression for the last decade , and has seen an astounding half million Puerto Ricans migrate to the mainland.  Proponents of statehood proclaim that becoming a state would help fix their economic woes, while opponents say the expensive referendum is just a politically charged distraction.

 

The referendum had 3 options; remain a territory of the United States, cut ties with the United States and become an independent nation, or try and become a state.  Statehood was supported by Governor Ricardo Rossello from the “New Progressive Party,” while the “Popular Democratic Party” and “Puerto Rican Independence Party” called for their supporters to boycott, rather than participate in, the referendum.   

Gov. Rossello, and his “New Progressive Party,” support statehood.

Supporters of statehood, like Rossello, see becoming a state as a way to help out the territories economic problems.  Rossello, and other supporters, point out that the current situation cannot continue to exist. As a territory, Puerto Rico receives less federal funding for programs like medicare and medicaid than their counterparts,  and its residents are not allowed to vote for President, despite the fact that those born in Puerto Rico have been granted US citizenship since 1917.  

 

Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez, a native of Puerto Rico, doesn’t think statehood is likely.

Opponents of the referendum said that the vote was an expensive distraction; costing the cash-strapped territory nearly $11 million dollars at a time when the island is over $70 billion in debt.  Other opponents, like Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez, just don’t see it happening, even though the support seems to be there;

 

“The supporters of statehood are selling a fantasy that a Latino, Caribbean nation will be admitted as a state during the era of Donald Trump (and) that states, many of which supported Trump, will accept a Spanish-speaking state”

 

Representative Gutierrez brings up a valid point: just because Puerto Ricans want to become a state, doesn’t mean it will happen.  Past referendums have ended with the people declaring that they want Puerto Rico to become a state, yet they are still a territory. This is, in part because, admitting a new state for the Union is difficult, and vague.

 

Admitting a New State

 

Admitting a new state is incredibly rare, last occurring when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted in January and August of 1959.  The process for admitting a new state is laid out in Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution.

 

“New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.”

 

The process generally plays out like this: the proposed state votes on statehood, proposed state then petitions Congress for statehood, next the House and Senate (can) vote to accept the proposed state; after all of that, the President then signs off, if he wants. The process also calls for the proposed state to adopt an “acceptable” constitution, which Puerto Rico had ratified in 1952.

The path Puerto Rico would follow, would be the “Tennessee Plan” which calls for drafting a constitution, holding a referendum, and then petitioning Congress for statehood.  The plan has been used successfully six times (MI, IA, CA, OR, KS, AK).  Following the referendum, Governor Rossello would send a lobbying party to DC to lobby on behalf of Puerto Rico’s statehood.

 

Puerto Rico’s Long fight for Statehood

Puerto Rico voted for statehood in 2012, and the Democrats didn’t let the issue come to a vote.

Puerto Rico has had a long history of trying to become our nation’s 51st state.  They took the first steps towards becoming a state in 1950, when Congress gave Puerto Rico the permission to draft a constitution, their constitution was ratified by Congress in 1952.

 

Although they voted to become a state in 2012, Puerto Rico has seen nothing from Congress that suggests statehood will happen anytime soon.  In an attempt to rectify this, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in the U.S House of Representatives, introduced thePuerto Rico Statehood Admission Process Act” in 2015. This legislation outlines the process for Puerto Rico’s statehood admission. Pierluisi’s legislation states that if the citizens of Puerto Rico vote for statehood, than within 30 calendar days of a positive vote, the President will begin the process of adopting Puerto Rico as a state:

Despite being a congressman, Puerto Rico’s Pedro Pierluisi may not vote on legislation.

“(a) Proclamation.—Within 30 calendar days of receipt of the certified results transmitted pursuant to section 4, the President shall issue a proclamation to begin the transition process that will culminate in Puerto Rico’s admission into the Union as a State effective January 1, 2021.”

 

Despite having over a dozen co-sponsors, the bill hasn’t seen any movement since 2015.  

 

Despite Sunday’s outcome, it does seem unlikely that Puerto Rico will be admitted to the Union anytime soon. As Rep. Gutierrez pointed out; it is unlikely that the Trump administration will be itching to admit a Spanish-speaking state into the Union.

If admitted, however, Puerto Rico could become the first “state” to elect representatives from a political party outside of the big two. The “Puerto Rico Independence Party” (PIP) believes that regulation imposed by the United States government is prohibitive in nature, and that the island’s independence is the best option for the future of Puerto Rico.  While the “New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico” tends to believe that the benefits of having two Senators, full voting rights, and access to more federal funding will solve their economic woes.