We support HR 8393, the Puerto Rico Status Act, and we do not want further delays. We have seen calls for further delay from a variety of organizations and individuals who claim to be in favor of decolonization of Puerto Rico. We believe they are mistaken, at best. At worst, they are intentionally delaying progress toward sovereignty — as a state or a nation — for Puerto Rico.
Has there been enough discussion?
One of the claims is that there have not been enough hearings or enough public input on HR 8393. The bill was negotiated fiercely for months, went through the process of markup, and is ready for debate and a vote.
Congress has debated Puerto Rico’s political status for more than a century. Since last year, the House Natural Resources Committee has held two hearings in DC and a public input forum in Puerto Rico, where the only voters on the subject live. They set up a public comment portal where they received stakeholder input for months. They have heard from members of the committee who voted against the bill and from members of the public who will have no chance to vote. They have received enough feedback.
The Puerto Rico Status Act doesn’t need more hearings; it needs a vote on the House floor as soon as possible.
Is the bill imperfect?
Certainly, we agree that the bill is imperfect. We have joined many voices who have pointed out the uncertainties in the bill. However, claims that the definitions of the status options are insufficient are not reasonable.
There are three choices for the final referendum proposed by HR 8393:
- Statehood, for which we have 50 current examples. Details about being a state are covered in the Constitution, including the 10th Amendment which says that anything not covered in the Constitution is up to the states. Things not covered in the Constitution include the Olympics and languages.
- Independence, for which there are many examples internationally, including both Cuba and the Phillipines, which were U.S. possessions at one time.
- Free Association, for which there are three examples. The details will have to be negotiated after the decision is made and cannot be settled before a vote.
The vote would therefore be among legally viable alternatives.
What would be the next step?
The next step after a vote in Congress would be a referendum on the Island. The details are laid out in HR 8393.
The most likely outcome is that statehood will win again, and the process of admission is clearly described. It is much the same as the processes for Alaska and Hawaii.
If by some chance Puerto Rico were to vote for one of the other options, the processes are also described in the bill. There would be less certainty about what would happen next, but Puerto Rico will certainly stop being a territory.
It is time. Puerto Rico has been a possession of the United States for more than a century. There should be no further delay.