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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Puerto Rico status bill reintroduced in Congress

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón

By John McPhaul

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking minority member of the Natural Resources Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, accompanied by original co-sponsors Rep. Nydia Velázquez Serrano (D-N.Y.), Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), as well as Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, announced on Thursday the reintroduction of the Puerto Rico Status Bill at a Washington, D.C. press conference.

“Last year, we made history with the bipartisan passage of the Puerto Rico Status Act, the first piece of legislation passed by the House, which authorizes a binding, self-executing plebiscite on the island only among non-territorial status options,” González Colón said in a written statement. “In doing so, we set an important precedent, recognizing that Puerto Rico’s current territorial status is the problem and cannot be part of the solution.”

“With the reintroduction of the Puerto Rico Status Act in this Congress, we seek to continue building on this effort and finally end more than a hundred years of inequality and second-class citizenship,” the resident commissioner continued. “The bill would empower the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico to democratically determine our future between constitutionally viable and non-territorial options: Statehood, Independence or Independence in Free Association. The people of Puerto Rico have voted multiple times for statehood and this bill provides the mechanism to achieve that pursuit. Nothing is above the will of the people. The Constitution clearly states that resolving Puerto Rico’s political status is the responsibility of Congress. After 125 years of debate, the time has come for Congress to commit to real action and end our shameful territorial reality.”

Grijalva expressed gratitude “to the many local political and community leaders, residents, legal experts and staff who contributed to this bill.”

“Thanks also to all the national and local organizations that supported the proposal,” he said. “While Congress should continue to push federal policies that provide parity to the more than 3 million U.S. citizens residing on the island, resolving Puerto Rico’s structural constraints, such as its status as a territory, should be a top priority for long-term economic and political development on the island.”

Velázquez Serrano noted that “[a]fter more than a hundred years of colonial rule, Puerto Ricans need a democratic mechanism to determine their own future. I am proud to reintroduce this bill with my colleagues to ensure that the decolonization of the island remains front and center in Congress.”

“The people of Puerto Rico must decide their future and Congress has the responsibility and power to facilitate that process,” she added.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) are also original co-sponsors of the legislation. The Puerto Rico Status Bill, passed by the House last year, establishes a process for the people of Puerto Rico to determine the future of the island’s political status.

The bill authorizes a federally sponsored plebiscite to resolve Puerto Rico’s political status. The legislation details the transition to and implementation of a non-territorial status for Puerto Rico -- statehood, independence or sovereignty in free association with the United States -- which is elected by the majority of voters in Puerto Rico.

The status bill was drafted with the participation of congressmen; elected local government officials; experts in citizenship, immigration and constitutional law; and hundreds of residents of Puerto Rico.

“Puerto Ricans pledge allegiance to our American flag, serve in our armed forces, pay certain federal taxes, and contribute to the fabric of our nation; however, they are still treated as second-class citizens,” Soto said. “In the last Congress, we introduced the Puerto Rico Status Act, which will allow our brothers and sisters on the island to get out of the political limbo in which they have fought for so many years. I’m proud of the progress we made last year when we passed this consensus bill in the House, and I’m happy to reintroduce it today. I hope our Senate colleagues see the importance of passing this bill to create a path forward in Puerto Rico’s political status.”

“I am united with my colleagues in our shared belief that the people of Puerto Rico must be able to control the political future of their island,” Hoyer said. “We met, negotiated in good faith and reached consensus on this historic legislation to give Puerto Ricans the self-determination they deserve. As House majority leader in the last Congress, I was proud to introduce the Puerto Rico Status Act to the floor and pass it in the House on a bipartisan basis. We will continue to press Congress to offer the people of Puerto Rico a choice about their future political status, to inform them of their options, and to help implement any decision they make.”

Ocasio-Cortez said “it is truly historic to have a process of self-determination and decolonization of the island and that we are really talking about ending the colonial status.”

Torres, meanwhile, stated that “[i]t is past time for Congress to take action and finally end the current colonial state that stands in the way of Puerto Rico’s ability to make meaningful progress for its people.”

“As I continue to state, Puerto Rico’s current status represents a deep rot at the very core of American democracy, which is why I proudly support the Puerto Rico Status Act,” he said. “This legislation finally creates a mechanism in which the people of Puerto Rico can choose between permanent solutions to the issue that has defined the lives of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico for more than 100 years. I look forward to working with my colleagues and Gov. Pierluisi to make this a reality once and for all.”

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