Ro Khanna

Rep. Ro Khanna spoke on the House floor, beginning, “It’s time to finally decolonize Puerto Rico!”

“The U.S. has kept Puerto Rico as a territory for more than 125 years,” he continued. “Over three million people have been denied full political rights.” He went on to say that Puerto Rico should have either independence or statehood, the two possible non-territorial political status options under the U.S. Constitution.

“I am committed to working directly with Puerto Ricans on this issue,” Khanna went on. “It is not for us to tell them what they should choose, but we must end harmful pubic policies like Law 22, which allows tax evasion by the wealthy at the expense of Puerto Rico, and end the lack of food sovereignty in Puerto Rico,”

Law 22, now part of Act 60, gives enormous tax breaks to people who move to Puerto Rico. It is extremely controversial both in Congress and on the Island. Food sovereignty can mean different things to different people, but broadly it refers to local control over food production, distribution, and consumption. Puerto Rico currently imports about 85% of the food eaten there, and small family farms are disappearing. Both the influx of wealthy settlers and the preponderance of corporate-produced food are characteristic of colonialism.

The status question

Rep. Khanna voted for the Puerto Rico Status Act when it passed the House in 2022, but has not yet cosponsored the current bill.

Puerto Rico’s political status is in the hands of Congress. Puerto Rico voters chose statehood in 2012, 2017, and 2020, three very different plebiscites. The choice of statehood in all three referenda held in the 21st century makes it clear that statehood is the majority preference.

However, the Puerto Rico Status Act calls for one more status vote, this time with a choice among statehood, free association, and independence without free association. This bill is a compromise among leaders from Puerto Rico and other members of the legislature. Both the House and the Senate are considering the Puerto Rico Status Act. The Senate will hold a hearing on the Senate version of the bill (as well as a bill with the same name introduced by Senator Wicker) this month.

Khanna’s support for Puerto Rico

Khanna’s remarks were made during a time when Members of the House are able to make statements that are not related to any single topic, and there was no discussion on the floor. He spoke of his grandfather’s advocacy of decolonization for India, and connected that to Puerto Rico’s position. “Colonialism was wrong in India during my grandfather’s lifetime,” he said, “And it is wrong in Puerto Rico in 2024.”

However, Khanna is a long-time supporter of Puerto Rico. He has cosponsored status bills in the past, and has spoken and written about the territory for some years.

We appreciate Rep. Khanna and the other brave people who speak up for equality and justice for Puerto Rico.



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