(KTVX) – Are Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens?
The short answer is yes, but they do not have all the same rights or follow the same policies as those born in the continental United States.
Puerto Rico is considered an organized, unincorporated territory. This means they are self-governing without an automatic constitutional law placed on them, but they are owned by the United States. Over 3.7 million people live in Puerto Rico and for the most part, the territory is treated similarly to Washington, D.C.
They can have representatives at congressional meetings, but they cannot vote in general elections. They can, however, vote in presidential primaries. Puerto Ricans pay state and local taxes, but they don’t generally pay federal income taxes unless they are U.S. government employees.
Puerto Ricans also receive less Medicaid than the United States. They must pay the same FICA taxes as the United States but are not eligible for Supplemental Security Income.
Since Puerto Ricans are considered citizens, they can move and live in the United States freely. However, the benefits they receive are not the same. On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling by an 8-1 vote that keeps Puerto Ricans from receiving Supplemental Security Income.
Puerto Rico is not the only territory that has this status, though. Residents of Guam, the Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands are also considered citizens.
Those living in Samoa, however, are not considered citizens. They are considered American Nationalists who can live, work or study in the U.S. but cannot vote in any way unless they go through the immigration process like other foreigners.
Another special case is the three nations of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and the island of Palau.
These nations each have a seat in the U.N. and a special relationship with the United States. They are considered a Compact of Free Association.
This relationship comes with the agreement that the U.S. can build military bases on these islands and will then allow residents to live and work in the United States freely without voting rights, like those of Samoa.