During his Presidential campaign President-Elect Donald Trump made a statement on Puerto Rico’s status:
There are 3.7 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico. As citizens, they should be entitled to determine for themselves their political status. I am firmly committed to the process where Puerto Ricans might resolve their status according to Constitutional and Congressional protocols. I believe the people of Puerto Rico deserve a process of status self-determination that gives them a fair and unambiguous choice on this matter. As president I will do my part to insure that Congress follows the Constitution. The will of the Puerto Rican people in any status referendum should be considered as Congress follows through on any desired change in status for Puerto Rico, including statehood.
In other words, like many in Washington, our newly elected President shares the belief that Puerto Rico’s future status should be based on consent of the governed. Of course, that means consent of the Congress on behalf of the nation by adopting an enabling act and offering the terms for admission to the union. It also means consent by a majority of the 3.5 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico once Congress has adopted an enabling and admissions act.
The process of consent already began when Puerto Rico chose statehood in 2012. Congress responded in 2014 and took the first step toward consent to ending the current territorial status by sponsoring another referendum to confirm the 2012 results. Now that the statehood party in Puerto Rico won control of the local government, that new federally sponsored vote is expected in 2017.
So President-Elect Trump’s statement favoring a process that lets Puerto Rico choose their status and that Congress should follow the Constitution covered the essential points needed to win support from pro-statehood Puerto Rican voters across America. Mr. Trump is not known to be a fence-straddling politician, so a statement like this no longer can be seen as a non-committal statement by a candidate, but a commitment by a new President of the United States whose legacy can and probably will include the admission of the 51st state of the union.
Like all Americans, President-elect Trump understands the work of making the Union under the contstitution “more perfect” is not done, and never will be.
In our time, making the union between Puerto Rico and the rest of our nation equal and therefore more perfect must become part of our generation’s legacy.
In 2012 the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico withdrew consent to the current less perfect union as a territory, and chose statehood instead. We will not turn our backs on the truth about the historical meaning of that act of democratic self-determination.