What Does Being A U.S. Territory Mean For Puerto Rico?

President Donald Trump walks with FEMA director Brock Long, second from right, and Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan, right as he tours an area influenced by Hurricane Maria in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 3, 2017.

Evan Vucci/AP

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Evan Vucci/AP

President Donald Trump walks with FEMA director Brock Long, second from right, and Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan, right as he tours an area influenced by Hurricane Maria in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 3, 2017.

Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump posted a array of early morning tweets on Thursday that put a disaster spotlight behind on Puerto Rico.

In one twitter he reminded everybody that Puerto Rico’s “electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes.” In a subsequent one he blamed Puerto Rico for a appearing financial predicament and “a sum miss of accountability.” And finally he seemed to bluster to mislay sovereign assist workers from a domain after Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello responded by tweeting that Puerto Ricans “are requesting a support that any of a associate adults would accept opposite a Nation.”

Hurricane Maria strike Puerto Rico some-more than 3 weeks ago, and residents of a domain have been undone with a sovereign government’s response. Mainland politicians have also been propelling a boss to do some-more to help, such as New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who represents a vast Puerto Rican constituency. She told NPR final month that a government’s response has not been proportional to a border of a disaster.

House Speaker Paul Ryan skeleton to revisit Puerto Rico on Friday. The House on Thursday upheld a $36.5 billion disaster assist package that includes income for communities influenced by wildfires and hurricanes. It provides $1.27 billion for disaster food assistance for Puerto Rico.

What it means to be a U.S. territory

So what accurately does it meant to be a territory, and what responsibilities does a sovereign supervision have to a people of Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is one of 5 inhabited U.S. territories, along with American Samoa, Guam, a Northern Mariana Islands and a U.S. Virgin Islands. People of these territories (except some in American Samoa) are U.S. citizens, compensate taxes and can openly transport within a U.S.

Much like states in a U.S., a territories also have their possess governments and elect their possess governors.

Unlike states, a territories do not have a opinion in Congress. They any send a nominee to a House who possesses all powers of a Representative besides voting rights, like a ability to discuss legislation or lay on committees.

The territories also send representatives to domestic conventions, such as those to commission presidential candidates. However, a territories have no electoral votes in a presidential election.

Despite their inability to opinion on sovereign issues, Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens for some-more than 100 years and a supervision has a same responsibilities toward them as they do to other U.S. citizens.

How Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory

Puerto Rico was a Spanish cluster until 1898, when a U.S. gained control of it, along with Guam and a Philippines, as partial of a terms finale a Spanish-American War. Shortly thereafter, Congress upheld a check dogmatic Puerto Rico an “unorganized territory.” This nomination meant that Puerto Ricans were not nonetheless U.S. citizens, though did yield them with a chair in a U.S. House.

An obscure Supreme Court statute a year after tangible Puerto Rico as an unincorporated territory. Its residents perceived some inherent protections, though they were not deliberate partial of a United States and did not accept full inherent rights.

In 1917, a Jones Act postulated Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship, restructured a territory’s supervision and combined a check of rights. It also done it easier for a U.S. to partisan Puerto Ricans to offer in World War I. The 1920 Jones Act limited shipping to Puerto Rico and was temporarily waived after Hurricane Maria.

Despite these changes, a domestic standing of Puerto Rico remained in dilapidation until a mid-20th century. In 1948, Puerto Rico inaugurated a possess administrator for a initial time underneath U.S. control. Four years later, a U.S. authorized a Constitution of Puerto Rico, substantiating it as a country of a United States. This meant Puerto Rico remained a U.S. territory, though combined a “more rarely grown relationship” with a sovereign government.

Since then, Puerto Rico has hold referendums for statehood 5 times, many recently this year. While Puerto Ricans have deserted statehood in a past, they voted overwhelmingly in preference of it in June. That referendum, however, was non-binding and has no temperament on either a domain will turn a state. That preference is left adult to Congress.

Tim Webber is an novice on NPR’s National Desk.