The Borinqueneers, the 65th Infantry of the U.S. army, was a primarily Puerto Rican regiment, the only Hispanic regiment in the U.S. Army. Individual members of the regiment earned hundreds of medals for their bravery, just like other individual soldiers, but the Congressional Gold Medal that the regiment received in 2016 was a different story.
The Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance (BCGMA), a volunteer organization, worked for many years to persuade Congress to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Borinqueneers. The Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo Code Talkers, Nisei Soldiers, and Montford Point Marines, other segregated units from the bad old days when segregation was legal in the United States, had already received Congressional Gold Medals. The award recognized that these units had accomplished acts of courage and distinguished service even while they were hampered by discrimination.
The BCGMA saw that the Borinqueneers should also receive the Congressional Gold Medal. With the help of volunteers across the nation, they reached out to their legislators, asking them to co-sponsor bills in both the House and Senate to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Borinqueneers.
The U.S. House of Representatives bill was introduced by Representatives Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) and Bill Posey (R-FL).
The U.S. Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
Once the bills were introduced, the BCGMA continued to ask lawmakers in Congress to support the bill. The bill passed in 2014 and was signed by then President Obama. In 2016, the process was completed and the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the Borinqueneers.
An important example
Many Americans’ hearts were moved by the efforts of the BCGMA, their volunteers, the organizations that supported them, and the legislators in Congress who took action for their cause. The process they went through sometimes seemed very long and complicated, and many people along the way expressed frustration.
Puerto Rico will soon have a new statehood bill introduced in Congress. We must follow the same path that led to the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Borinqueneers. We have to reach out to legislators across the country and encourage them to support the new statehood bill, just as the volunteers of the BCGMA did.
Congress makes the decision about awarding Congressional Gold Medals. It’s not up to the president or the people; it’s up to Congress. Adding a new state is also up to Congress. It’s not up to the president or the people. But Congress will listen to the people. We have to speak up and make that happen.
Contact your legislators. Tell them why they should support statehood for Puerto Rico.