Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico, told El Nuevo Dia that Congress is “evading its responsibility” on the issue of statehood for Puerto Rico.

Congress and only Congress can admit new states. The House Natural Resources Committee, the committee with responsibility for Puerto Rico, has been considering two status bills for months. Chairman Raul Grijalva asked the Department of Justice for clarification on the viability of the two bills and held two hearings on the subject. He has also participated in conversations about a possible compromise bill. The committee has not, however, moved forward to mark up the bills.

Gonzalez-Colon pointed out that statehood won the 2020 referendum.

“The majority voted in favor of statehood and [it] got more votes than all the political leaders of all the parties. That, to me, is broad consensus,” she said. “The Committee Chairman should bring the bill or bills to committee. And there, he and the committee will see which one has the support and which one does not. I have a lot of colleagues who are not co-sponsors who have expressed their support, and I know they would vote in favor of the bill (H.R.1522),” she said.

Abrogating responsibility

At the June hearing on these two bills, a member made the claim that voting for HR 1522 would be “abrogating responsibility” — that is, evading responsibility for Puerto Rico’s status by leaving the decision on statehood up to the people of Puerto Rico.

He was concerned that the language question was not dealt with in the bill. He leapt from this concern to the idea that admitting Puerto Rico without settling this question would be evading responsibility.

In fact, leaving Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory comprised of U.S. citizens, in the political status limbo of an unincorporated territory for more than a century truly is evading responsibility.

Congress has a responsibility to provide resolution for Puerto Rico’s political status. It should have happened long before now. Tell your congressperson to step up and do the right thing.

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