Attorney Willie Santana spoke before the Tennessee General Assembly this week on a resolution to support statehood for Puerto Rico. The resolution, introduced by Rep. Goins, calls for the State of Tennessee to support Puerto Rico as the 51st State of the United States.
“Tennessee was the first territory to become a State,” Santana said, going on to describe the challenges faced by Tennessee on their path to statehood. “I submit to you that maintaining the territorial status of Puerto Rico is contrary to the principles of self-governance and self-determination that America was founded upon.”
“Puerto Ricans on the Island remain sentenced to second class citizenship,” Santana continued, pointing out that residents of Puerto Rico, though they pay taxes and fight in the U.S. armed forces, cannot vote in presidential elections and do not have voting representation in the legislature.
“In our nation’s history, Tennessee has never shied away from taking leadership [and] doing what’s right,” Santana declared. “There are 3.5 million Americans living on the Island of Puerto Rico who had no voice in the government with supreme power over them. Tennessee should support her sister state in the Caribbean.”
Questions from Assembly members included one on the debt. “The issue of status is central to that problem, not tangential to it,” Santana responded. “As citizens on the mainland, we’re more likely to get stuck with Puerto Rico’s debt if Puerto Rico remains a territory than we would if Puerto Rico became a state and had more control over their affairs.”
Other questions included the most common questions we see here. The legislators asked whether Puerto Ricans were citizens of the United States, whether they had to have visas to come to the States, whether Hawaii had once been a territory, whether the people of Puerto Rico could vote in presidential elections, and whether Puerto Ricans pay taxes.
The members of the Assembly, even though they are well-informed individuals with responsibility for their state, had many of the same confusions people in the States often have about Puerto Rico.
They also asked the chances of Puerto Rico’s actually becoming a state. Representative Goins answered that both political parties’ political platforms currently support self-determination for Puerto Rico, and that both the governor and the residential commissioner of Puerto Rico support statehood. He expressed optimism that Puerto Rico would be able to achieve statehood.
The members of the Assembly, once they understood the position of Puerto Rico as a territory, were very supportive.
The resolution passed unanimously in the subcommittee and now goes on to the full committee.
If you live in the States, this is an opportunity to take action toward gaining equality for Puerto Rico. Would your State support Puerto Rico’s demand for statehood? Contact your legislators and suggest it.