Rep. Pierluisi, the only representative Puerto Rico has in the U.S. legislature, introduced a bill called “The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Process Act” which will create a practical process for Puerto Rico to confirm the desire of Puerto Rico’s voters to gain statehood, and for Congress to take action on the wishes of the voters.
Hawaii and Alaska were the territories most recently admitted to the Union. Pierluisi pointed out that two public laws were involved in the admission of these territories as States:
- Public Law 85-508 (July 7, 1958), “an act to provide for the admission of the State of Alaska into the Union”
- Public Law 86-3 (March 18, 1959), “an act to provide for the admission of the State of Hawaii into the Union”
A majority of voters in Hawaii first approved statehood in 1940, followed by a 1946 majority vote for statehood in Alaska. These votes were locally-sponsored plebiscites.
Public Law 85-508 and Public Law 86-3 were Acts of Congress which said that admission would occur if a majority of voters affirmed in a Federally-sponsored plebiscite that the territory should “be admitted into the Union as a State” — in other words, if the voters said again in a Federally-sponsored vote what they had already said in a locally-sponsored vote.
The Federally-sponsored plebiscite in the territory of Alaska was held on August 26, 1958, and Alaska was admitted into the Union on January 3, 1959, 13 years after the state-sponsored vote. The Federally-sponsored plebiscite in the territory of Hawaii was held on June 27, 1959, and Hawaii was admitted into the Union on August 21, 1959, 19 years after the state-sponsored vote.
Puerto Rico’s voters said in 2012 that they preferred statehood. On the question of which status voters preferred, 61% of the votes favored statehood. If the people of Puerto Rico confirm their preference for statehood in the planned federally-sponsored plebiscite, the new bill calls for action from the U.S. government:
- A presidential proclamation in February, 2018, announcing the transition to statehood
- A report listing all the areas in which Puerto Rico is currently treated differently from the states, and a plan to transition to equal treatment in all these areas
- A vote in November 2020 in which Puerto Rico can vote for the President of the United States, as well as for Puerto Rico’s senators and congressional representatives
- A proclamation of statehood for Puerto Rico on January 1, 2021, followed by the swearing in of Puerto Rico’s representatives in the legislature
This plan of action is based on the plans that brought Alaska and Hawaii into the Union.
Rep. Pierluisi’s final statement in his speech is a stirring one:
Every Member of Congress who cosponsors this bill is standing up for a powerful principle, which
The people of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens, they have enriched the life of this nation for generations, and they have fought and died to defend her. Thus, if a majority of Puerto Rico voters affirm their desire in a federally-sponsored vote to become a full and equal part of the American family, the will of the people should be honored.
Democracy requires no less.
If you agree, contact your legislators and make your voice heard.