Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States but it has not yet been fully and permanently incorporated into our country. Its people are U.S. citizens, subject to all Federal laws, but do not have voting and equal representation in Congress, cannot vote for the President, and are not treated equally in major Federal policies and programs.

In a November 2012 referendum under Puerto Rican law, the majority of voters rejected territory status and chose statehood as the alternative by 61.2%. The White House said the choice was “clear,” but some local politicians, who want the U.S. to agree to an unprecedented status combining statehood, nationhood, and territory status, have refused to respect the voters’ decision. The Obama Administration and the Congress have provided for another referendum to finally answer the question of whether Puerto Rico’s ultimate status will be statehood or nationhood. The government of Puerto Rico plans to hold this plebiscite in 2017.

We ask two things:

First, we ask that the referendum be a simple choice between statehood and independence. Territory status, in addition to having been rejected already, cannot resolve the issue and, thus, cannot meet the requirements of the Federal law for the referendum. Nor can an “Enhanced Commonwealth” combination of different statuses that Federal officials have repeatedly said cannot be combined.

Second, we ask that Congress and the President act to move Puerto Rico towards statehood if that is the choice in the referendum.

The unresolved question of Puerto Rico’s ultimate status has lingered for 116 years, caused economic hardship and denied democracy in the territory for too long. It has compelled millions of Puerto Ricans to move to the States for equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. It is time to finally resolve the issue.

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