• The Star Staff

Soto, González Colón introduce bill supporting statehood for Puerto Rico

Congress called to take action on island’s political status

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), along with Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón and Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, filed a bill in Congress on Tuesday to enable the admission of Puerto Rico as a state of the union following the results of the island’s 2020 statehood plebiscite.

During a press conference in Washington, D.C., Soto announced that the bill has received about 51 co-sponsors, 36 Democratic and 14 Republican members of Congress, to which González Colón, Pierluisi and other New Progressive Party elected officials responded with applause.

“I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” Soto said. “I just want to make sure that Jenniffer got to write the bill along with Governor Pierluisi, and she’s my ‘compañera’ [partner], to make sure it is the people of Puerto Rico who are writing the bills, the people of Puerto Rico who voted [for statehood].”

“We know why we are gathered here, and it’s because we know it’s time for Puerto Rico statehood now. It’s time to fulfill that promise of democracy and grant true equality for our fellow Americans back on the island,” Soto added. “We know that people already voted on Nov. 3, 2020, 52.52 percent of the majority of Puerto Ricans voted ‘Yes’ -- the ballot language was simple, and it was ‘Statehood: Yes or No.’”

The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act would establish a work plan and a path to Congress ratifying with its vote the admission of Puerto Rico as a U.S. state under conditions equal to those of the other states of the union.

Meanwhile, Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) said she was filled with “appreciation, honor and satisfaction to give back 60 years later what they did for my parents and millions of other Cubans who arrived 60 years before due to the [Fidel] Castro revolution.”

“I was raised in Puerto Rico. I know the Puerto Ricans very well,” Salazar said. “These are very noble, hard-working, great people who deserve not to be second-class citizens any longer.”

González Colón pointed out that the bipartisan bill will allow the president of the United States to establish a proclamation “allowing the island to ratify the vote, the will of the people, providing the same process as Alaska and Hawaii [used].”

“As a territory of the United States, we are completely under the power of the U.S. Constitution, so that’s a different process from Washington, D.C. [statehood admission],” the resident commissioner said. “Having this bill in the House and having Sen. [Martin] Heinrich [D-N.M.] endorsing and actually filing the bill on the Senate side, and having the word of Sen. [Rick] Scott [R-Fla.] and Sen. [Marco] Rubio [R-Fla.] for statehood as well, we should be having a companion bill in the Senate soon.”

“I think this is going to be the first time we are going to have statehood moving on both sides of the Capitol,” González Colón added, noting that it was time the island became a U.S. state since it has been a territory since 1898.

Pierluisi, meanwhile, said he was sure that the statehood admission bill “will get traction and will get a hearing in the Committee of Jurisdiction.”

“I am sure that this bill, once it hits the floor of the House, will get majority support in the U.S. House of Representatives,” the governor said. “It’s about time that we see Puerto Rico gain the [political] status it deserves.”

“Even with the objection of the U.S. Justice Department, even without having any kind of commitment or offer on the part of Congress, a clear majority of the voters of Puerto Rico supported statehood,” Pierluisi added. “I respect those who have other status options, I respect those who believe that there should be a different process, but I tell them all, once a majority of the people of Puerto Rico expressed their will, this talk about consensus, this talk about other deliberations and processes, it is talk of the past.”

The bill requires the U.S. president to notify the governor of Puerto Rico once the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act is enacted into law. The bill further requires that the governor, within 30 days of being notified of the bill’s enactment, issue a proclamation for the election of Puerto Rico’s senators and representatives in Congress.

The governor of Puerto Rico must call for an election in which voters will ratify their desire for admission into the union as a state.

Specifically, voters in Puerto Rico will be asked the following question: “Shall Puerto Rico immediately be admitted into the Union as a State, in accordance with terms prescribed in the Act of Congress approved ………. (date of approval of this Act)?:Yes _____ No _____.” A similar question was posed to voters in Alaska and Hawaii following the enactment of their respective admission acts.

Should a majority of the votes cast in the aforementioned ratification election approve of statehood, the chairman of Puerto Rico’s State Elections Commission will certify the results and transmit them to the governor. The governor will then have 10 days to transmit the results to the president of the United States, the president pro-tempore of the U.S. Senate, and the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Upon receiving the governor’s notification, the U.S. president will be required to issue a proclamation declaring certified the results for statehood and declaring the date upon which Puerto Rico will be admitted as a state, which must occur no later than 12 months after the results have been certified. Upon issuance of the presidential proclamation, Puerto Rico will be deemed admitted into the union as a state.

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