Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico, has been a champion of statehood for Puerto Rico for many years. She points out that the United States is a beacon of democracy and therefore should not own a colony. “The time has come to fight for the rights and to claim what is ours,” she said. “We’re part of the American fabric.” Her reasons include personal factors as well.
The congresswoman began by pointing out that the choices for Puerto Rico’s political status are not up to Puerto Rico. The U.S. Department of Justice has determined that statehood and independence — with or without a Compact of Free Association — are the only non-colonial options. “I hear people say we need another fourth choice,” she said, but there are no further options.
“My sister was living on the Island,” said Gonzalez-Colon, “and she decided to move to Alaska…Why? Because there were better opportunities there for my niece and for her quality of life.” She pointed out that families become divided when people move from Puerto Rico to the states. Even married couples are sometimes divided, she said, with one working on the Island and one on the mainland.
“Not because they don’t want to live on the Island,” she said, “but because they don’t have any other choice.” Becoming a state will allow Puerto Ricans to fulfill their desires without having to leave the Island for a state.
“This is why I was elected,” she continued. “People voted for me because they want to finish this unfinished business of democracy, which means allowing Puerto Rico to become a state.”
Gonzalez-Colon has personal feelings about the issue, too. “I want to vote for my president. I want to vote for my senators. I want to vote for more members of Congress.”
“My voice but not my vote”
Gonzalez-Colon is confident that Puerto Rico will become a state. Comparing the struggle for statehood with the fights for civil rights and voting rights for Black Americans, she said that these efforts can take a long time but must, in the end, succeed.
But only Congress can admit a state. And when Congress votes on whether to admit Puerto Rico, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon will not be able to vote. As Resident Commissioner, she can and does have influence in Congress, but she does not have a vote. The legislators representing the 50 states will make that decision. For that reason, it is essential that people living in the states speak up for Puerto Rico. Share your story!