90 Leaders Urge House Natural Resources Committee to Vote on the Puerto Rico Status Act
Washington, D.C. – Today, 90 organizations and leaders signed a letter calling on the House Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Raul Grijalva, and Ranking Member, Bruce Westerman, to bring the Puerto Rico Status Act (PRSA) up for a markup vote. For the first time in history, the PRSA would authorize a binding plebiscite vote in Puerto Rico between the constitutionally viable non-territory options of statehood, independence and independence with free association. The letter expressed support for the bill and provided recommendations for the Committee to consider to ensure that the three choices presented to the voters in Puerto Rico are defined as clearly as possible.
Read the full text of the letter:
“While we support the PRSA discussion draft as written, and acknowledge that making any changes to it that are not agreed to by all of the parties could cause the bipartisan agreement to fall apart, we believe the Committee must consider making several critical improvements to the legislation before its introduction or during the legislative process,” wrote the groups.
The letter goes on to highlight the importance of clarifying that for purposes of the U.S. Constitution the option of “Free Association ” is a form of independence. It asks the Committee to ensure that voter education materials inform voters in Puerto Rico that under the options of “Independence” and “Sovereignty in Free Association,” individuals who retain their U.S citizenship while living in Puerto Rico will be required to report all taxable income to the Internal Revenue Service and to pay federal taxes as U.S. citizens living abroad.
The letter seeks for Congress to clarify the provisions regarding U.S. Citizenship under “Free Association,” because under existing legal and policy precedent former U.S. territories which have obtained either “Independence” (the Philippines) or independence with “Free Association” (the former trust territories of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau) have always established their own separate nationality and citizenship.
Additionally, the letter asks the Committee to clarify what would happen if Puerto Rico’s voters choose “Free Association” and Congress then fails to approve the “Free Association” treaty. It urges them to make it absolutely clear to voters that such approval by a future Congress is not guaranteed, and that when voting for “Free Association” the only guarantee that the voters will have is that of Puerto Rico’s complete independence.
George Laws García, the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Statehood Council, one of the organizations that led efforts to coordinate the group letter, said, “The PRSA recognizes the fact that the current territory status is fundamentally undemocratic and colonial in nature and that it goes directly against America’s founding principles of government by the consent of the governed. As supporters of statehood for Puerto Rico, we believe that by finally offering a binding choice, including the option of statehood, the discussion draft of the PRSA respects the will of the majority of Puerto Rico voters who have formally expressed their desire for statehood in 2012, 2017 and 2020. We are completely confident that when Congress finally gives the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico a binding choice to decide the territory’s political future, a majority of voters will once again choose statehood.”
Background: Last December the PRSC led a letter to Congress urging immediate legislative action to definitively resolve the issue of Puerto Rico’s outdated and failed current territory status. That communication, which was endorsed by a multitude of organizations from across the country and the political spectrum, expressed support for a possible compromise bill option as long as it offered a direct plebiscite vote between the constitutionally viable non-territory options of statehood and independence with or without free association. The Puerto Rico Status Act discussion draft does exactly that.
The Puerto Rico Statehood Council is a Washington, D.C. based, non-partisan, 501(c)4 non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the goal of equality for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico through statehood.