The Diaspora — people who moved from Puerto Rico to a state and their descendants — are “the face of Puerto Rico in the United States,” according to an opinion piece at ABC News.
There are more than 5.7 million Puerto Ricans living in the states now, compared with just about 3.4 million living in Puerto Rico.
All Americans should care about Puerto Rico’s struggle for statehood. As a nation devoted to democracy, we have no business governing without the consent of the governed in Puerto Rico. We can’t trumpet the importance of liberty and justice while we maintain an arguably colonial relationship with Puerto Rico. If we are champions of human rights, we can’t accept leaving millions of U.S. citizens without adequate healthcare, safe water, or passable roads.
The Diaspora has the chance to provide a greater voice for friends and family on the Island.
Puerto Ricans in Congress
There are four legislators in Washington who are members of the Diaspora:
- Luis Gutierrez
- José Serrano
- Nydia Velázquez
- Darren Soto
Serrano and Soto are both supporters of statehood and cosponsors of the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, HR 6246.
Luis Gutierrez wants independence for Puerto Rico. “It’s easy to be against statehood when you live in a state,” Serrano pointed out, and this is true for Gutierrez. He has introduced bills for Puerto Rico independence in Congress, and has argued that the Diaspora should get a vote in Puerto Rico’s status.
But Gutierrez would not have to go through the hardships that would inevitably come with independence for Puerto Rico. He can be a romantic advocating for independence when he knows that only a tiny fraction of people living on the Island want independence.
Velazquez is aligned with the status quo in Puerto Rico. She can look at Puerto Rico’s experience as an unincorporated territory of the United States and feel confident that she will not have to deal with the consequences. She too lives in a state.
The political power of the Diaspora
The members of Congress whose families come from Puerto Rico have power. But all the Puerto Ricans who live in the States also have power. The power of their votes. The power to influence their representatives.
If you live in a state you have two senators and multiple members of the House whose job it is to speak up for you. Let them know that Puerto Rico’s status matters to you. Speak up for statehood.