Reps. Nydia Velazquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently introduced a bill that would delay Puerto Rico’s upcoming yes/no vote on statehood, reviving instead a call for a status assembly process which the “commonwealth” party in Puerto Rico has been discussing for decades. Velazquez has offered much there same bill in the past, and the current bill calls for annual reports — so it’s obviously intended to be a lengthy process. Rep. Darren Soto responded with a resolution that calls for the opposite: that Congress should pay attention to the upcoming vote and respect the process already chosen by the territory.
The resolution is straightforward:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) declares that the Congress and the President will have a duty to act in 2021 on the self-determination choice of the people of Puerto Rico if the plebiscite chooses statehood;
(2) recognizes that implementation legislation will need to include measures to phase-in the equal treatment of the territory and its residents in Federal laws; and
(3) states that such measures should implement equality for Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans as expeditiously as reasonably possible.
If the plebiscite should choose No, Puerto Rico would continue as an unincorporated territory in the same status the Island currently has. No action would be required of the Congress or the president in that case.
However, polls show that Puerto Rico continues to favor statehood over other options, so it is likely that statehood will win for a third time. In that case, Soto’s resolution will call on Congress and the president to take action to admit Puerto Rico and to make sure that the Island receives the legal equality required by the U.S. Constitution for all states.
The resolution lists a number of reasons that Congress should accept the resolution:
- As a possession of the United States, Puerto Rico can become a state or an independent nation.
- U.S. citizenship was granted to people born in Puerto Rico for the purpose of creating a permanent relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.
- Territory status keeps Puerto Rico from full participation in American democracy, against the will of Puerto Rico’s leaders.
- Puerto Rico is generally treated less well than the states.
- The federal government has a “longstanding policy” that Puerto Rico will be able to decide on the status of the Island.
- In the last two plebiscites, statehood was the winner; the current territory status was soundly rejected.
Darren Soto, whose family comes from Puerto Rico, has been a long-time supporter of statehood and equal rights for Puerto Rico.
The resolution is co-sponsored by Reps. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (PR-R), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Val Demings (FL-10), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Ted Deutch (FL-22), José Serrano (NY-15), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Don Young (AK-R), Donna E. Shalala (FL-27), Stephanie Murphy (FL-7), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Al Lawson (FL-05), Fredererica Wilson (FL-22), Kathy Castor (FL-14) and Delegate Amata Radewagen (AS).