Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island signed on as a cosponsor of S 780 last week. This week, his colleague Sheldon Whitehouse did the same. Rhode Island is the first state to have both senators as cosponsors. California, Oregon, and Hawaii have one senator each on the list.
S780, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, is the companion bill to HR 1522. In order to become law, a statehood bill must pass in the House and in the Senate. Then it must be signed by the president.
Reed is a veteran and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. We are sure that he is aware that Puerto Ricans have a long and proud history of supporting and serving in the United States military.
Senator Whitehouse has said before that he “would support statehood for Washington DC and Puerto Rico if either of those proposals came up for a vote in the Senate.”
Why Rhode Island?
Rhode Island has an estimated 38,860 Puerto Rican residents; 3.14% of residents identified themselves as Puerto Rican in the most recent census. The state is #6 among the 50 states for the percentage of its residents who are from Puerto Rico. Since Rhode Island is a small state (the smallest!), the total numbers don’t compare with large states like Florida and New York, but there are enough Puerto Rican voters to capture the attention of the senators from Rhode Island.
The Puerto Rican community of Providence, Rhode Island, estimated at more than 7% of the population there, began settling in Rhode Island in the 1920s. Men from Puerto Rico would come to Rhode Island to work in the agricultural industry every spring, returning to Puerto Rico before cold weather set in.
From the 1950s on, increasing numbers of people of Puerto Rican heritage migrated from New York to Rhode Island, with significant numbers arriving in the 1980s. Puerto Ricans are in positions of leadership in Rhode Island, including Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who is running for governor.
Why not New York and Florida?
Senators vote according to their beliefs and their understanding of the issues, not just according to the people living in their states. However, they do represent their constituents. There are more than a million Puerto Ricans living in Florida, and both Florida Senators have publicly stated that they favor statehood for Puerto Rico.
Why aren’t the senators from Florida in our corner?
If you live in Florida, please contact your senators and let them know that this issue matters to you. Don’t live in Florida? Do you know someone who does? Please ask your friends and family members in Florida to reach out to Senator Scott and Senator Rubio. They need to be reminded that they promised support for statehood when they asked for your vote.
As for New York, the senators there are Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer. Schumer famously said he would “love to” make Puerto Rico a state. Gillibrand has not made a statement on Puerto Rico statehood. Both may be avoiding commitment in support of their Members of the House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and Nydia Velazquez, who introduced a competing bill in the House.
If you live in New York, your state has the second largest number of Puerto Rican residents in the nation. Let your senators know that you care about equality through statehood for Puerto Rico.
Thank you, Senators Reed and Whitehouse
Now that Rhode Island has gotten the ball rolling, we expect to see more cosponsors for the statehood bill. Florida and New York, let’s see your senators line up on the right side of history!