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Lately, I have been hearing discussions about self-determination for the USVI, According to the proponents of status referendums, there are only three options of permanent political status: independence, free-association and statehood.
Status quo is not a choice and should not appear on the ballot, they argue. I, however, believe at this critical moment, most of the VI electorate would prefer to remain US citizens of an unincorporated territory. Although the USVI has been referred to as a colony and some conventional delegates have stated that natives are second-class citizens, I still do not wish for a change in political status. If the VI becomes either independent or incorporated as a state, what would be lost or gained?
The only advantage to being a state is that the VI electorate would be eligible to participate in presidential elections and vote for members of Congress who would have the power to create federal laws.Personally, it is not a major issue for me not being eligible to get a vote in the electoral college. Further, it is possible for the U.S. Constitution to be amended to allow the USVI to get an elector (the 23rd Amendment allows for Washington, D.C. to get one) and for our Delegate to Congress to vote in Congress. This is not important to me ,though, since there are many privileges we receive as a territory. We do not pay federal income taxes, yet we receive huge amounts of federal funds and get social security & other benefits.
All of the drawbacks to being an independent nation are too numerous to mention. The thought of no longer being an American citizen is absurd. Imagine the horror of living in a society where democracy would be abolished. This is the type of nation the nationalists of the fifth Constitutional Convention envision. The Ancestral Natives would pay no property taxes and would be the elite members of society. Their leader would rule with an iron-fist and the minority population would be subjects or third-class citizens.
If the USVI becomes an independent nation, its name would have to change and the Ancestral Natives would get an opportunity to draft a constitution without congressional approval. For the supporters of this status, I guess being able to finally establish an identity not associated with the USA would be great. Can they give any other advantages of this status? Could they explain why people risk their lives to enter the USA from independent nations such as Haiti and Cuba? If it is so wonderful living in an independent nation, why do people leave Antigua, Dominica , Jamaica and St. Lucia to come to the USVI? Why do they become naturalized U.S. citizens?
At the Emancipation presentation in Frederiksted, I heard Dr. Corbin's views on free-association. He elaborated on three models of this political status. None of them impressed me. Can anyone give a country that has this political status and is in a better position than the USVI? If there are rewards for being free from the USA, but being associated with it, why not be completely liberated from it? Why associate with someone unless there are benefits to the association? Isn't electing your own governor, having your own flag & seal, and enjoying the rights & benefits of being an American citizen, an ideal aspect of free-association? In essence,then, it appears that this is the political status we presently have. It is not call free-association and it has not been formally accepted.Would there be any significant difference, if the USVI officially attain this permanent status?
Several years ago, there was a status referendum held and the majority of the electorate failed to go to the polls. The few who participated in the process, decided not to change the status. I predict the same results would occur today. Why bother waste time, money and energy to pursue the matter officially? Those who wish to achieve independence should take their cause to the United Nations or simply relinquish their U.S. citizenship. Advocates for statehood should start a committee and lobby the Senate for a referendum. The ones like me who do not desire a change in status should let their voices be heard;nevertheless, let the Senate know that it would be a futile effort to conduct a referendum..
Regardless of your sentiment on the matter, it is important to express your opinion. Silence is approval. Your tax-monies could be used to fund a status committee. Read the proposed VI Constitution. Do you think there should be a status referendum? If so, what political status do you favor?