Senate Must Address Puerto Rico’s Territory Status
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Puerto Rico Statehood Council (PRSC) issued a letter urging the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (Committee) to help resolve Puerto Rico’s unequal territory status. The letter, addressed to Committee Chairman Joe Manchin and Ranking Member John Barrasso, was sent ahead of a hearing on “The State of the U.S. Territories.” During that hearing the Governor of Puerto Rico, Hon. Pedro Pierluisi, testified about the urgent need for the Senate to address Puerto Rico’s political status in order to chart a clear course for the future of the 3.1 million U.S. citizens on the island.
In the PRSC’s letter, George Laws García, the organization’s Executive Director, wrote, “The undemocratic territory status of Puerto Rico not only silences the needs of U.S. citizens on the island, but also stifles the island’s prosperity and resilience… the House has passed three bills to resolve Puerto Rico’s status since 1998, but the Senate has failed to address the issue. It is now incumbent upon the Committee and the Senate to continue the momentum of the House in the 117th Congress…to bring an end to the colonial status of the island…”
“As the oldest U.S. colony, it is time to finally provide voters in Puerto Rico a definitive choice among the constitutionally viable options for the island’s political future. Merely dealing with the symptoms of Puerto Rico’s inequality and disenfranchisement is woefully insufficient,” added Laws García.
“[Congress] has direct jurisdiction over these issues and has a moral responsibility to take action, hold hearings, and pass legislation to uphold the fundamental American principle of government by consent of the governed,” concluded the letter.
BACKGROUND: In the last decade Puerto Rico has held three local plebiscites where each time voters rejected the current territory status and favored statehood. Last December the House of Representatives passed H.R. 8393, Puerto Rico Status Act with a bipartisan vote of 233-191. The bill would have allowed voters in Puerto Rico to choose between “Statehood,” “Independence, or “Free Association” with the U.S., and it included mechanisms for the implementation whichever option was chosen. Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate did not have time to consider the legislation in the 117th Congress.