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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Igartúa: Getting island certified as an incorporated territory would be step toward statehood

Pro-statehood attorney Gregorio Igartúa

By The Star Staff

Because of congressional inaction in approving status legislation for Puerto Rico, pro-statehood lawyer Gregorio Igartúa has asked the island government to drop the idea of a status vote and asked Congress to certify the island as an incorporated territory.

Igartúa in an interview with the STAR said he made the suggestion in a letter to La Fortaleza adviser Isaías Sánchez. The letter states that incorporation is a step closer to statehood.

An incorporated state is one in which a portion of the domain of the U.S. that does not constitute and is not a part of any state but that is considered a part of the U.S. proper and is entitled to all the benefits of the Constitution that are not specifically reserved to the states.

The pro-statehood lawyer noted certain historical facts, including that there is no support in Congress for a status plebiscite and that the legislation does not guarantee an electoral majority.

In May, a group of U.S. lawmakers unveiled the Puerto Rico Status Act discussion draft legislation, a consensus bill between Democrats and Republicans on how to deal with the U.S. commonwealth status.

If eventually passed in the U.S. House and Senate, the Puerto Rico Status Act would create and fund a process for Puerto Ricans to participate in a binding vote to determine the island’s political relationship with the U.S.

The ballot would not include the current commonwealth status, according to the draft. Voters would instead choose between three options: statehood, sovereignty in free association with the U.S., and independence.

Under the legislation, Puerto Ricans would maintain their U.S. citizenship under all options for at least one generation. Those born after Puerto Rico becomes independent or a freely associated state will not be U.S. citizens. If Puerto Rico chooses statehood, the U.S. will begin the process of admitting it as the nation’s 51st state, the draft says. If the island chooses free association, it will be independent but share some agreed-upon functions with the U.S. government. If it chooses independence, it will be a sovereign nation.

The chances of territorial incorporation for Puerto Rico are higher than statehood, Igartúa said. He noted that federal judge Gustavo Gelpí in the Consejo de Salud ruled that Puerto Rico was an incorporated territory, which Congress can’t deny because all of the elements for incorporation are present.

Igartúa also noted that recently the Supreme Court declined to hear a case that sought to reverse the precedent set by the insular cases, a series of cases from the early 20th century that justify treating Puerto Rico differently from the states.

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