Rep. Raul Grijalva, the chair of the House committee in charge of Puerto Rico, is not an estadista. He has been in the group that keeps saying Puerto Rico needs self determination, year after year, as Puerto Rico performs valid acts of self-determination leading again and again to a request for statehood.
So it may be surprising that Grijalva took the lead on chastising the Department of Justice for their claim that they still need Puerto Rico to make up her mind on status preference.
The DOJ rejected funding for the 2020 ballot
The Department of Justice didn’t reject the 2020 vote or even threaten to do so. But they did refuse to approve federal funding for the vote. Why?
The first reason they gave was that Puerto Rico had missed its deadline and there just wasn’t enough time. Governor Wanda Vázquez retorted in a letter this summer that it was the DOJ rather than the government of Puerto Rico that had missed the deadline.
Second, they claimed that it wasn’t clear that Puerto Rico had rejected the current territorial political status.
It was this claim that Grijalva and 21 other members of Congress disputed in a recent letter.
“I am deeply concerned by the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) contentions that the residents of the island did not directly reject the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s current territory status in a local plebiscite held in 2012,” the letter began.
“The argument that Puerto Rico did not reject its current territory status in 2012 conflates the plebiscite’s two separate questions,” the letter continues. “The first question asked voters ‘Do you agree that Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of territorial status?’ According to results certified by PRSEC, approximately 78.2% of eligible voters answered this question and 54.0% chose ‘No’. There is no serious debate about the results of the first question.”
In other words, 54% — a clear majority — of voters cast their ballots against continuing as a territory.
The second question
“The second question asked voters to choose between statehood, independence, and a sovereign free associated state, regardless of their selection in the first question,” Grijalva’s letter then says. “According to results certified by PRSEC, approximately 61.2% chose statehood, 33.3% chose sovereign free associated state, and 5.5% chose independence.” This is, on the face of it, a clear majority in favor of statehood.
“However,” the letter continues, “some people debate the results of the second question. ‘Debate focused on whether almost 500,000 blank answers on the second question should be included in the total, thereby affecting whether any alternative received a majority.’”
The quote in the letter was of the Congressional Research Service, which included this information in a 2017 report on the Political Status of Puerto Rico.
DOJ is disingenuous
“Therefore, it is disingenuous of DOJ to write that in 2012 the residents of Puerto Rico did not reject the island’s current territory status, as demonstrated by the results of the first question,” the letter concludes. “The Executive Branch, Congress, and Puerto Rico’s elected government officials must work together to resolve the island’s political status, and that process requires accurately describing and acknowledging the aspirations of the residents of Puerto Rico.”
Grijalva used the term “disingenuous,” which describes dishonesty masquerading as ignorance. This is saying that the DOJ is pretending that they don’t know that Puerto Rico soundly rejected the current territorial status — in 2012, 2017, and 2020, in a series of status votes.
Who signed the letter?
21 members of Congress, in addition to Grijalva, signed the letter upbraiding the DOJ for their dishonesty:
- Darren Soto
- Jared Huffman
- Michael F.Q. San Nicolas
- Alan Lowenthal
- Juan Vargas
- Jmie Raskin
- Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
- Ann Kirkpatrick
- Susan Wild
- Val Demings
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz
- Brendan Boyle
- Tony Cardenas
- Alcee Hastings
- Marcy Kaptur
- Theodore Deutch
- Nanette Diaz Barragan
- Ed Case
- Ruben Gallego
- Matt Cartwright
- Jose Serrano
Do you see your congressperson on the list? Please thank them and let them know that you agree: Puerto Rico has rejected the current territorial status, and have chosen statehood. If your representative is not on the list above, please let them know that you want them to rethink their position.
Please also click below to tweet Rep. Grijalva’s sensible and honest claim:Rep. Grijalva Calls DOJ “Disingenuous” Click To Tweet