Raul Grijalva, a Democratic congressman from Arizona, visited Puerto Rico to hold meetings with leaders there. Topics in the discussions included the PROMESA Fiscal Oversight and Management Board, housing, education, energy, and Puerto Rico’s political status. He met with the New Progressive (PNP) , Popular Democratic (PPD) , Puerto Rican Independentist (PIP) and Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (MVC) parties.
He also met with the Puerto Rico Statehood Council (PRSC), including George Laws Garcia, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Statehood Council; Irma Rodriguez, President of Puerto Rico Escogió Estadidad; Brig. Gen. Victor Pérez (Ret.), Chairman of the Veterans for Puerto Rico Statehood Task Force; Keishla Rodriguez, President of the Juventud Progresista; Edwin Francisco Rivera, Member of the Puerto Rico Young Republican Federation; Prof. José Garriga-Picó, Secretary of the Puerto Rico Statehood Project; Nixon Rosado Vélez, Extended Delegate of the Extended Congressional Delegation for Puerto Rico; Yvette Chardón, Extended Delegate of the Extended Congressional Delegation for Puerto Rico from Ponce; and statehood activist Josué Rivera.
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González held a meeting with Grijalva which included Puerto Rico Senator Thomas Rivera Schatz and Rep. Carlos “Johnny” Méndez. This meeting included talks on details like the federal benefits available to needy people in Puerto Rico and the plans for National Parks in Puerto Rico, as well as HR2757, the Puerto Rico Status Act.
What the leaders asked for
Former Senator Juan Dalmau, who may be the next Independence Party candidate, called for hearings on HR 2757. The resident commissioner also wants public hearings in the Natural Resources committee. HR2757, the Puerto Rico Status Act, is substantially the same as the bill of the same name that was passed in the House last December. One of the concerns expressed by Republican congressional representatives last year was that there had not been enough hearings on the bill within Congress.
Representative Ortiz of the Popular Democratic, or “commonwealth” party, insisted that he will continue to demand that the unconstitutional “commonwealth” option be included in any vote on Puerto Rico’s status. The Puerto Rico Status Act gives Puerto Rico voters a choice among the constitutionally acceptable, non-territorial options:
- sovereignty with free association
Ortiz is not alone in his belief that the “commonwealth” option should be included in the bill. Senator Roger Wicker introduced a competing Puerto Rico Status Act in the Senate last year. That bill would have added the option of remaining a territory, under the term “commonwealth,” to the choices on the status referendum ballot. The term “commonwealth” is legally meaningless in the United State; several states are called commonwealths already, and Puerto Rico could do the same as a state. Ortiz appears to be referring to the “enhanced commonwealth” option, which has been declared unconstitutional by all three branches of the federal government. The “commonwealth” party has trouble explaining the idea, though some elements of the traditional descriptions have reared their heads again under the name of “free association.”
Statehood leaders spoke up for statehood, and discussed with Grijalva how greater bilateral support could be developed. HR2757 currently has 76 cosponsors, both Democrats and Republicans. Grijalva reportedly said that he can see there is general support for the act in Puerto Rico.