What if Congress Does Nothing?

In the most recent hearing on Puerto Rico’s political status, a member of Congress objected to HR 1522 on the grounds that it doesn’t discuss whether Puerto Rico should have English as its official language. English is already one of Puerto Rico’s official languages.

Unfortunately, there are members of Congress who don’t have the information they need to make useful decisions about Puerto Rico.

The same individual said that respecting the vote and accepting the will of Puerto Rico’s voters would “abrogate the responsibility” of Congress to make the decision of whether or not to admit Puerto Rico as a state.

To abrogate responsibility is to fail to perform actions for which one is responsible. It’s true that Congress has failed to admit Puerto Rico or even to decide against admitting Puerto Rico. Congress has had more than a century to make that decision since Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens in 1917. Why the congressman should think that voting for HR 1522 would be abrogating responsibility and the past century wasn’t is not clear.

If Congress continues to abrogate its responsibility

Congress does not have to vote on any bill. Only about 4% of the bills introduced in Congress ever become laws. Congress might decide not to vote on HR 1522.

In that case, Puerto Rico will continue to be a territory of the Unites States, a property belonging to the United States, without sovereignty.

The defeat of HR 1522 would not provide independence, sovereignty, or any form of “enhanced commonwealth.” It will just delay statehood. The same thing is probably true of the passage of HR 2070.

If HR 1522 passes, Puerto Rico will become a state in a reasonable amount of time. If not, we will continue to work for statehood.

But Congress does have a responsibility

It is almost offensive to suggest that HR 1522 is somehow going to cause Congress to fail in its responsibility to and for Puerto Rico. Congress has failed to resolve the status of the Island and has left it in the untenable position of an unincorporated territory for more than 100 years.

Congress has accepted the idea that the United States, a nation which should be a beacon of democracy, has a colony left over from its brief flirtation with imperialism. Congress has tolerated and been complicit in the inequality of Puerto Rico.

It is the responsibility of Congress to resolve the status of Puerto Rico and to admit the territory as a state, on equal footing with he other 50 states. Tell your legislators that you need their support in doing the right thing.

 

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