Could the U.S. Government Deport Puerto Ricans?

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“Plainly the USA should get rid of this millstone. That’s easier said than done, though. In theory I guess Congress could simply end the “commonwealth” relationship and cut the place loose. In practice this would mean revoking the citizenship of the 3.7 million inhabitants. And what about the five million or so Puerto Ricans who reside in the USA?

Another approach would be to get Puerto Ricans thinking that independence might be a good idea. Perhaps we could try oppressing the place: Make them tenant farmers under absentee landlords, proscribe use of their native tongue, and shut down their churches. Hey, it worked for Ireland.” - How Can We Get Rid of Puerto Rico?

BarrioIcon-Newsletter1x1Ay, nothing seems to surprise me these days, especially when it comes to imperial subjects talking about their colonies. While the above quote and article disturbs me (especially since what the author describes was actually done to Puerto Rico by the U.S. government), I have come to know that the viewpoint does not just belong to extremists, but is part of the mainstream – whether it is said publicly or not. It could also speak to a dangerous trend in political discourse that one day may become official policy.

First, the belief that Puerto Ricans are fully responsible for their (internal)colonial reality allows for Puerto Rico to be in a political limbo with the United States government for over 100 years. Let’s not forget that the archipelago colony is under the legal auspices of the U.S. Congress, as determined by the Supreme Court, i.e. “Puerto Rico belongs to but is not a part of the U.S.” Let’s not forget that there has never been a legally binding referendum (unlike what took place in Scotland) to give its people the opportunity to decide their own future, i.e. self-determination. So, if the author wants to get rid of this “burden”, then they should be pushing the U.S. government to stop practicing imperialism. That also includes taking responsibility for what it has done to the archipelago, namely destroying the local economy for the benefit of its multi-national companies. It’s also curious that the author likes to perpetuate the pathology of the colony’s residents, but forgets the billions of dollars and thousands of jobs the U.S. acquires from the colony – way more than it “invests.” Let keep it real.

Second and, most importantly, the author alludes to a theoretical probability of all Puerto Ricans loosing their U.S. citizenship, including the Diaspora. Yup, you heard me right.

For the last few years, mainstream politicians have been clamoring for the revocation of the 14th amendment, which allows for birth-right citizenship. This is obviously due to anti-immigrant xenophobia. As pathologized colonial subjects Puerto Ricans are racialized as non-white and therefore are also understood as “alien” and “dangerous” to the imperial “body.” If the 14th amendment is ever gotten rid of, then the U.S. Congress could simply strip away the Puerto Rican right to citizenship. Even more – and this might depend on ensuing lawsuits, as well as other factors – is that Boricuas who were born in the U.S. to parents from Puerto Rico could also get their citizenship taken away. That coupled with immediate independence, which the author recommends, could mean that the Boricua Diaspora could be “illegalized” and deported “back” to the archipelago. Scary, isn’t it?

Of course, there is a lot of social, political, and economic factors that need to be considered for what I have described to fully materialize. But the ideas and conditions are out there and, sadly, no one is engaging with them. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Xavi Burgos Peña

Xavi Burgos Peña is co-founder of La Respuesta magazine. He is a Boricua/ Dominicano of the Diaspora who has lived his life between New York City and Chicago. His professional experience is mostly in the area of community-building, including youth development, social marketing, and organizing against gentrification. His journalism credits include being editor and chief designer for Que Ondee Sola magazine, columnist for La Voz del Paseo Boricua newspaper, contributor to Gozamos magazine, and guest writer for Claridad newspaper in Puerto Rico. Contact: xavi@larespuestamedia.com 

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