Axios interviewed Puerto Rico’s new governor, Pedro Pierluisi. Pierluisi used to be the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, and has always been a strong supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico.
He told Axios that Congress has “a moral obligation” to act on the November plebiscite vote. Axios disputed this with a “reality check” saying that “Congress isn’t obligated to take up the issue of statehood for Puerto Rico.”
While it is true that Congress is not legally required to deal with the question of Puerto Rico’s status, a moral obligation is different.
Congress can ignore requests for statehood
Congress has ignored plenty of requests for statehood. New Mexico, for example, put up 50 statehood admission bills in the 62 years between their request for statehood and their admission. Hawaii sent request after request for statehood, taking a break during WWII, and was repeatedly ignored. Minnesota was so completely neglected by Congress that they considered declaring independence.
Many more territories sent admission bills or requests to Congress and did not get any response. All of them are states today.
Eventually, Congress has to make a decision on the political status of territories because nobody else can do so. According to the U.S. Constitution, Congress and only Congress makes “all needful” rules for territories.
Puerto Rico has been waiting for a decision on her political status for more than a century. Today, when the great imperial nations of the past have given up their colonies, the Unites States has no business keeping Puerto Rico as a possession, disregarding repeated rejections of territory status in official plebiscites.
The Axios interviewer asks the governor when statehood is likely to come up in Congress. He answers that he expects a new statehood bill by mid-March.
He also says that he expects to see significant support for statehood in Congress. He mentions Rep. Martin Heinrich as the member of Congress with whom he has most recently spoken about statehood for Puerto Rico, but we know that there are many more representatives who have spoken publicly in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico.
It is becoming more clear that Congress cannot take the moral high ground on democracy and also refuse Puerto Rico’s calls for statehood.
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