The Velazquez Bill: Not Self-determination

Rep. Nydia Velazquez of New York has reintroduced her bill calling for a status convention in Puerto Rico. This bill is very similar to the one introduced last year and the one she introduced in 2009. A status convention in which a small group of people can press for their ideas instead of respecting the vote of the majority of the people has been a common feature of anti-statehood proponents in Puerto Rico for decades.

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon responded, “It should be up to the people, through their vote, to determine their future. This is not what the bill introduced by Velázquez and Ocasio-Cortez does, which instead ignores the will already expressed by our people and intends to impose their own views upon us.”

This is the primary problem with the “self-determination” bill. It ignores the actions of self-determination already taken by the people of Puerto Rico. The tweet below shows the inappropriateness of the idea with a teasing tone.

But this is not really about New York. The teasing shows the strangeness of having one state’s representative try to make laws for another, but Puerto Rico has a limited voice in the legislature. Every Member of Congress has a duty to  help resolve the status of Puerto Rico, especially since it is now very clear that Puerto Rico no longer accepts the territory status..

Will HR 2070 do that?

What would the Velazquez bill accomplish?

The first thing the bill would accomplish would be to keep Puerto Rico in its untenable status of unincorporated territory. The bill specifies a “semi-permanent” group of delegates who would be required to produce annual reports. Clearly, the framers of the bill expect the process to drag on for years.

It could push Puerto Rico back into the position of voting for impossibilities. If Puerto Rico voted for the “free beer and barbecue option,” it would not be ratified in Congress, just as it was not ratified in Congress in the 20th century. The bill sets up a “negotiating commission” from Congress, but does not require Puerto Rico to negotiate with the commission and does not give them the power to approve or disapprove of the options to be presented to the Puerto Rican people, even if they are unconstitutional.

Of course, Puerto Rico will probably vote again for statehood, since that has for years been the most popular option. However, there is already a statehood bill in Congress. Statehood was already chosen in a democratic act of self-determination by the voters of Puerto Rico. If the Velazquez bill leads to statehood, it will have done nothing but delay the resolution of Puerto Rico’s status.

A delaying tactic?

The bill states that if Congress doesn’t vote on the bill before the time runs out, the status convention delegates can start over. This would put Puerto Rico in the same position the territory is in right now. This makes it even more clear that this bill is essentially a delaying tactic.

Tell your reps that you do not want them to support this bill, but that they should support the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Act, introduced by Puerto Rico’s elected representative in Congress.

One Comment

Hilda Neris

The people that are residents of Puerto Rico voted for statehood and no one should interfere in our decisions. Those living in the states should support the the American Citizens living in the Island.

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