51 Puerto Rico organizations, including both the Democratic and Republican parties of Puerto Rico, the Young Democrats and Young Republicans of Puerto Rico, Veteranos de Puerto Rico and several other veterans organizations, the Puerto Rico Statehood Council and several other statehood organizations, the National Puerto Rican Equality Commission, and many more sent a letter to Reps. Grijalva and Westerman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.
The letter begins, “Just over one year after the historic 2020 election we are writing to urge you to respect and take immediate action on Puerto Rico’s vote for statehood.”
A reminder: Puerto Rico already chose statehood
“As civic organizations from across the states and Puerto Rico, we represent the majority of the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico who voted on November 3, 2020, in support of full equality and
democracy through statehood,” the letter continues. “This was the third time in the last decade where island residents have been formally asked what future political status they prefer, and each time statehood has gained the most votes. The majority consensus is now clear.”
The letter reminds its readers of the basic facts of the November 2020 plebiscite and goes on to request immediate action.
“After more than a century of uncertainty, it is time for Congress to stop delaying and take action to definitively resolve Puerto Rico’s unequal and undemocratic territory
status,” the authors wrote. “We believe that the only way to respect Puerto Rico’s majority vote for statehood is by immediately bringing H.R. 1522, Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act
up for a markup vote, or by quickly submitting and bringing to a markup a consensus plebiscite bill offering voters on the island a direct choice between defined constitutionally viable non-territory options of statehood or independence (with or without ‘free association’).”
The idea of a consensus bill has been discussed in Congress, since there are currently two Puerto Rico status bills under consideration. One is HR 1522, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Bill, which would implement the decision for statehood already made by Puerto Rico voters.
The other is HR 2070, a revival of a call for a status convention which has been proposed repeatedly in the past.
“Of the two bills that address Puerto Rico’s political status currently under
consideration by your Committee,” the letter says, “only H.R. 1522 represents a viable path forward. H.R. 1522 respects the will of the majority of…Puerto Rico’s voters, offering them a real and implementable solution to the problem of territorial status and sets a clear timeline for making it happen.”
The authors review the details of the process outlined by HR 1522, pointing out that the process is the same one used to admit Hawaii and Alaska in the 20th century.
“On the other hand, H.R. 2070 ignores the local votes that have already happened and
fails to deliver a clear path to solve Puerto Rico’s territory status,” the letter continues. “H.R. 2070 has no precedent in American history because it is not only unreasonable, it is simply unconstitutional. No Congress can mandate the automatic adoption of an unknown status resolution by a future Congress, which this bill purports to do. Simply put, H.R. 2070 disrespects the will of the majority of voters, it unnecessarily delays resolution to Puerto Rico’s political status, and fails to offer a clear, constitutionally valid and implementable choice to the U.S. citizens that reside there.”
The letter reminds the representatives that the Department of Justice has clearly stated that HR 2070 is unconstitutional as written, and that there simply are no new options for Puerto Rico’s political status beyond statehood or independence.
“What makes sense at this point is for the Committee to either immediately hold a markup vote on H.R. 1522, or to quickly submit and markup a consensus bill that offers Puerto Rico voters a direct and implementable choice on statehood and the other constitutionally viable non-territory option which is independence or independence with a pact of free association,” the letter states.
HR 2070 advocates a version of the process the “commonwealth” party has long requested as a step toward “enhanced commonwealth.” This idea has been rejected repeatedly over the decades by all three branches of the federal government.
The goal of HR 2070 appears to be simply to delay or derail the statehood process.
“If the Committee proceeds with a consensus bill approach it must act swiftly to introduce the measure and mark it up in January or February so that it can have a real chance to become law in the current session of Congress,” the letter continues.
“Our organizations represent people from across the country and across the political spectrum. We represent youth, elderly, women, veterans, and many non-Puerto Rican allies,” the letter concludes. “We are united by a single idea, that the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico deserve full equality and democracy through statehood. We will continue to build this citizen movement, because we believe in America’s highest ideals and potential, and we know that when Congress finally gives the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico the opportunity to achieve equal rights and responsibilities through statehood, that will not only empower Puerto Rico to reach its full potential, but also make America a more perfect Union.”
Reach out to your representatives and encourage them to get on the right side of history now. This Congress could make the admission of the 51st state part of their legacy.