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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

ProStatehood leader urges US Senate to certify Puerto Rico as incorporated territory

Pro-statehood lawyer Gregorio Igartúa

By The Star Staff

Pro-statehood lawyer Gregorio Igartúa wrote to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources asking them to certify Puerto Rico as an incorporated territory instead of enabling yet another status vote.

The status hearing, which was slated for this week, was postponed to a future date because it conflicts with a meeting with lawmakers at the White House.

Igartúa said he opposes the proposed bill because Puerto Rico, whose residents are U.S. citizens and must abide by federal laws, has most of the characteristics of a state for all practical purposes. Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898.

“Proposing a plebiscite with alternatives of independence or secession from our Nation, or of changing our political status to an Associated Republic, an association with terms unknown to us, is shameful and discriminatory after 126 years,” he said.

He said the Committee “must deal with our status issue based on what we are and not on what we can hypothetically be, three million sixth and seventh generations of American citizens residing in Puerto Rico.”

Igartúa emphasizes that Puerto Rico’s influence extends beyond the three million residents on the island. The five million Puerto Ricans residing in the states constitute a formidable political force, a fact that the Committee should take into account when considering Puerto Rico’s status.

“We decide elections in Chicago and New York,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs defines an unincorporated territory as a U.S. insular area in which Congress has determined that only selected parts of the U.S. Constitution apply. The office defines an incorporated territory as one in which Congress has used the full U.S. Constitution as it applies to states. Incorporation is a perpetual state. Once incorporated, the territory can no longer be de-incorporated.

Igartua stressed the need for broader participation in the planned hearings, advocating for a more inclusive approach beyond the usual political leaders. He believes this is crucial for a comprehensive and fair decision-making process.

Igartúa said that while the Committee acknowledged it received its letter, it has yet to invite him to speak.

The Puerto Rico Status Act seeks to resolve Puerto Rico’s status and its relationship to the U.S. through a federally binding plebiscite. The House passed the bill in December 2022 but the Senate has yet to vote for it.

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