Originally created 03/03/98

`No' to statehood 030398 - The Augusta Chronicle



Have you ever been to Puerto Rico? If so, have you ever been lost or needed directions? You'd better know how to speak Spanish, because fluency in English is not a big concern on the island that we conquered from Spain in 1898.

The U.S. House of Representatives must keep this salient fact in mind as it debates H.R. 856, a terrible bill that paves the way, via a stacked referendum, for Puerto Rico to become our 51st state.

Our national motto, E Pluribus Unum -- "Out of many, one" -- has been sorely tested in recent years, mainly due to a massive wave of illegal and legal immigration. Congress would be foolish to further undermine the glue that traditionally assimilates new Americans and holds them together -- our common English tongue.

Remember, too, that statehood -- according to the U.S. General Accounting Office -- would open the floodgates to an annual transfer of $4 billion annually from the U.S. Treasury to Puerto Rico. (Half of all the islanders qualify for food stamps and federal assistance.)

As debate heats up, listen to a cogent warning sounded by former Rep. Toby Roth, R-Wis. For 18 years he represented a district close to Canada, where its French-speaking Quebec province has been moving closer to an outright break with the rest of the English-speaking country. Roth underscores:

"That country's near breakup over linguistic and cultural differences left me with the profound impression of the fragility of nations. Much like the United States, Canada is a young diverse country founded on democratic principles. If a nation so similar to our own can come so close to unraveling, can we afford to take our own national unity for granted any longer?"

How can House members, regardless of party, who believe in E Pluribus Unum" vote in good conscience tomorrow for H.R. 856?