A group of statehood supporters representing various statehood groups demonstrated at the capitol ahead of Wednesday’s hearing on Puerto Rico status. Their goal: to send the message “Respect Puerto Rico’s Statehood Vote” to Congress.
Reviewing two status bills
The hearing, conducted by the House Committee on Natural Resources, was actually reviewing two competing bills on Puerto Rico’s political status:
- HR 1522, The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Bill
- HR 2070, the AOC/Velazquez bill to hold a status convention in Puerto Rico
HR 1522 follows up on the November plebiscite, in which the majority of voters said “Yes” to statehood. The bill will implement the will of the voters and lead to statehood. It calls for Congress to offer statehood to Puerto Rico and give Puerto Rico’s voters a final opportunity to ratify Congress’s offer.
HR 2070 proposes a status convention with elected representatives of all possible non-territorial status options plus a congressional advisory committee, followed by a ranked vote on all possible status options. The Department of Justice stated that “the Constitution limits Puerto Rico to three constitutional choices: the current territorial status, statehood, or independence…In other words, there is no constitutionally permissible status ‘outside of the Territorial Clause’ other than statehood or independence (including free-association agreements).”
The status constitution would therefore have nothing to offer in a referendum than the three options which have already been offered. The “commonwealth” party has consistently objected that the current territorial status is not the same as their commonwealth option, and that they must see their commonwealth option on the allot. However, the DOJ insists that the current status, but not “enhanced commonwealth” must be on that ballot.
Demonstrators demand respect
Rep. Jenniffer González-Colon, Rep. Darren Soto, Rep. Charlie Crist, and Rep. Val Demings, along with members of Puerto Rico’s Shadow Congressional Delegation, joined demonstrators to support Puerto Rico statehood.
“Last November, in a free and fair election, a majority of voters in Puerto Rico voted ‘Yes’ to the island’s immediate admission as a state of the union,” said George Laws García, the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Statehood Council. “Congress simply cannot ignore the will of these voters because it would go directly against America’s democratic norms and values.”
The Puerto Rico Statehood Action Network and member organizations Puerto Rico Chose Statehood (Puerto Rico Escogió Estadidad), National Puerto Rican Equality Coalition (NAPREC), Equality Sure Future (Igualdad Futuro Seguro), and the Rights & Equality Coalition (Coalición Pro Derechos e Igualdad) joined the Statehood Council in coordinating the demonstration.
“Puerto Ricans in the 50 states will be that great continental force that will work in their Congressional districts for their brothers and sisters on the island so that we can move to the next level in our national civil rights agenda,” said Cesar Mendez Otero, President of the Rights & Equality Coalition.