51 Puerto Rican organizations, including 44 sited in Puerto Rico, have banded together to send a letter to the House and Senate Committees on Natural Resources, the groups in Congress which are responsible for Puerto Rico.
The letter asks the committees to support the Puerto Rico statehood bills currently in Congress, and to reject the counterproposal introduced by Rep. Nydia Velazquez.
The statehood bills respect the vote in the most recent plebiscite, and the Velazquez bill ignores it.
“For over one-hundred years, the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico have been disenfranchised in federal elections and subjected to unequal treatment across federal programs. Last November, voters stood up to change that when an absolute majority of 53% demanded statehood in a locally sponsored referendum,” the letter begins. “The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, H.R. 1522 and S. 780, directly respond to that mandate, and we urge you to support it and help get it approved as soon as possible.”
Statehood has been the top choice of voters in three plebiscites, all the votes held in this century. However, the 2020 referendum was a simple “Yes” or “No” vote, with no possibility of confusion. “Puerto Rico’s referendum was historic because it is the first time that statehood received unquestionable majority support on the island with a simple ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ vote,” the letter states. “The 117th Congress is therefore presented with a unique opportunity to make history and put an end to America’s inherently colonial rule over Puerto Rico, which runs counter to America’s values of democracy, equal justice under the law, and government by the consent of the governed.”
President Biden won the popular vote by 51.3%, the second largest margin in this century. Statehood won by 52.5%, a higher margin than the presidential election. There is no question: statehood won.
George Laws García, the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Statehood Council, said in a press release, “A direct choice by voters based on a clearly defined constitutionally valid option is real self-determination…This stands in contrast with the ‘Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act’ espoused by Representatives Velázquez and Ocasio-Cortéz that would ignore Puerto Rico’s voters and create a convoluted status convention. This would just delay action and keep Puerto Rico a colony longer against the will of the majority.
“These Members of Congress are trying to replace the results of the recent free and fair plebiscite with a drawn-out process that includes semi-permanent delegates, re-negotiation with Congress on the available status options before the approval of the Puerto Rican people, and then a plebiscite that is ultimately non-binding and would require additional action by Congress to implement the final results. That would be a huge step backward for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, who have made it increasingly clear in the last decade that they reject continuing under the current colonial territory status, and a majority favor full democracy and equal rights through statehood. Justice delayed is justice denied, which is why the organizations in our letter all agree that Congress should move swiftly to pass the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act.”
The letter puts it like this: “We recognize there are some in Congress, such as Rep. Nydia Velázquez (NY) and Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ), who oppose statehood for Puerto Rico and have completely ignored the results of the referendum held last November.”
Statehood bill offers self-determination
“The only legislative option that respects the will of the people of Puerto Rico, and ensures a binding process of self-determination is H.R. 1522 & S. 780, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act,” the letter continues. “By offering statehood, stipulating the terms of admission, and requiring a ratification vote, Congress would finally open the door to full equality and democracy for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico while leaving the ultimate choice in their hands. If a majority opposes statehood at that point, then the island would remain a territory with the capacity to pursue independence or free association through the procedural mechanism of their choice, including a status convention. Congress has a moral obligation to let the people of Puerto Rico decide their own self-determination process.”
The process proposed by the Velazquez bill delays resolution of Puerto Rico’s status question for years, perhaps even permanently.
The letter concludes, “Our organizations represent the majority of voters in Puerto Rico, as well as their allies stateside. We believe it’s time to put an end to the dysfunctional, outdated, and undemocratic territory status to which Puerto Rico has been subjected. We call on Congress to open the door to full enfranchisement and equality for our fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico by supporting and passing the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act. America can and must do better.”
The 51 organizations
The organizations signing the letter include both the Republican and Democratic Parties of Puerto Rico, as well as the Young Democrats and Young Republicans of Puerto Rico, former representatives of the Puerto Rico Statehood Commissionand the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico, Ahora Sí Puerto Rico, Organización de Veteranos Progresistas, the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony National Committee, the Coalicion Pro Derechos E Igualdad, the Puerto Rico Equality Forum, the Puerto Rico Star Project, and many more.
Read the full letter to see the entire list of supporters.