HR 1522, The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, is the statehood bill for Puerto Rico for the 117th Congress in 2021. The House Natural Resources Committee, the committee responsible for Puerto Rico, has predicted that they will mark up this bill in the fall. They will also mark up a competing bill, HR 2070. If the two bills can be combined in some way, they will try to bring that new compromise bill to Congress. Otherwise, we expect that they will try to find enough support for one of the bills to bring it to Congress for a vote.
HR 1522 currently has 70 cosponsors, and it has a companion bill, S780, in the Senate.
Let’s get to know the details of this bill.
A simple bill
Some bills are complicated, but this one is simple. Here is its description: “To provide for the admission of the State of Puerto Rico into the Union.”
That’s the whole point of the bill.
The findings of a bill are the reasons it is being introduced. Here they are:
- The U.S. has owned Puerto Rico since 1898.
- Puerto Rico is governed by Congress.
- Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States.
- The U.S. granted citizenship to Puerto Rico, but not statehood.
- Puerto Rico has a constitution ratified by the voters and approved buy Congress.
- 32 territories have already become states.
- Puerto Ricans have made significant contributions to the United States.
- More than 235,000 Puerto Ricans have served in the U.S. military.
- Thousands of these servicemen and women have received military honors.
- Nine have received the Medal of Honor, and many more have received Distinguished Service honors.
- The 65th Infantry Regiment in Puerto Rico (known as the “Borinqueneers”) was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
- Congress designated April 13 National Borinqueneers Day in recognition of this regiment.
- Unincorporated territory status means that Federal laws can be applied to Puerto Rico and its American citizens differently from states, negatively affecting economic development.
- Unincorporated territory status has resulted in millions of residents leaving Puerto Rico to secure equal rights of citizenship attainable only in a state, again weakening Puerto Rico economically.
- Puerto Rico is socially, economically, politically, and legally integrated into the nation, more than territories admitted in the past.
- In November 2012, a majority of voters rejected continuation of the current territory status, and 61.2 percent of those expressing a choice on status alternatives chose statehood.
- In June 2017, a vote was held to confirm the aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico. As advised by the United States Department of Justice, all available status options were included in the ballot. Amid an opposition boycott, statehood received 97 percent of the votes casted, while independence and the current status received less than 3 percent of the vote.
- In November 2020, following Alaska and Hawaii precedent, Puerto Rico voters were presented with the question: “Should Puerto Rico be admitted immediately into the Union as a State? Yes or No”. A clear majority of 52.52 percent voted in the affirmative.
- In December 2020, the Puerto Rico legislature, following the absolute majority victory obtained by statehood in the plebiscite, approved a Joint Resolution petitioning, on behalf of the People of Puerto Rico, that Congress and the President of the United States admit Puerto Rico into the Union as a State and appointed official representatives to manage the transition to statehood.
- No large and populous United States territory inhabited by American citizens that has petitioned for statehood has been denied admission into the Union.
These are facts supporting the bill’s request for statehood.
Territory and constitution
The next two sections of the bill say simply that Puerto Rico will keep its current boundaries and its current constitution.
This section says that, once Congress approves the bill, the President of the United States will certify it and notify the Governor of Puerto Rico. The governor will then proclaim the election of Congressional representatives.
Once the bill has passed, the governor will plan a vote on this question: “Shall Puerto Rico immediately be admitted into the Union as a State, in accordance with terms prescribed in the Act of Congress approved ……….. (date of approval of this Act)?: Yes _____ No _____.”.
This is not a new referendum, and it will not need to include any other options on the allot. It will be a ratification vote. That is an approval or confirmation of the admission of Puerto Rico as a state.
If the voters of Puerto Rico were to vote no on this, Puerto Rico would not become a state.
If voters say “Yes” to statehood again, as they have already done three times, Puerto Rico will be admitted as a state.
Election of officers
The next section explains how the Congressional representatives and Senators of Puerto Rico will be elected.
Since 1898, Puerto Rico has had very little voice in Congress, even though Congress makes all the laws that govern Puerto Rico. Without voting representation in the House and Senate, Puerto Rico has little power in the public life of the United States. Decisions about Puerto Rico are literally made by the representatives of the states, who are responsible to the people of their states, not to the people of Puerto Rico.
Laws and obligations
The next few sections say that the laws of Puerto Rico will continue to be in effect, except for any laws that might conflict with statehood. The people in the government of the Island will continue in their positions, and the obligations of Puerto Rico will continue to exist.
Any law that conflicts with statehood, however, will be repealed automatically.
There are no surprises in the law, no extras, and no tricks. It’s a simple, straightforward law, similar to the laws that have led to admission of states in the past. You can read the whole text of the bill.
If you live in a state, please ask your representatives to support HR 1522.