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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Statehood leaders ask Congressmen to declare PR an incorporated territory

By The Star Staff

Several statehood supporters are lobbying each member of Congress to seek passage of a certification declaring Puerto Rico an incorporated territory.

“For 125 years the American citizens of Puerto Rico have been denied equal rights, same privileges and immunities, and statehood. Although Congress has gradually moved Puerto Rico to be like a state, it has not certified Puerto Rico as an incorporated territory. In consequence, we are discriminated in our rights as American citizens to the extent that unequal treatment in financial policies has led Puerto Rico to be in bankruptcy. We have been losing population because we are under a differential treatment provoking an unfair competition with states, which are providing better working conditions for our doctors, lawyers, engineers, policemen, nurses, teachers, and others,” the letter notes.

The document was signed by individuals and organizations such as Statehood Movement officials Gerardo Martínez and Ivette Cintrón; former Senator and professor José Garriga Picó, Puerto Rico-USA Foundation official John Regis, Alfonso Perez Borroto and Evelyn Ashbrook of P.R. Statehood Supports DMV; former San Juan Mayor Hernán Padilla, former UPR President José M. Saldana, former Democratic State Chairman Franklin Delano López and SERE 51.

Pro-statehood lawyer Gregorio Igartúa believes the declaration of Puerto Rico as an incorporated territory paves the way for statehood. He said the proposed status bill in Congress that would enable a status vote is not going to go anywhere as it does not have the needed votes.

Igartúa said that along with the letter, he sent them his latest book, “The de facto Incorporated Territory of Puerto Rico, that includes a resolution from some 4,000 mayors from U.S. cities supporting incorporation and other documents supporting the incorporation.

“I understand Congressmen have a ministerial duty to certify Puerto Rico as an incorporated territory in transit to statehood, and to eliminate the discriminatory treatment of imposing government without consent of the governed. Adopting, or not supporting, legislation based on how we as American citizens may vote in federal elections is illegal under U.S. law. In Puerto Rico some of us are Republicans, and some are Democrats,” the letter notes.

Several U.S. rulings, such as the Insular Cases, have defined Puerto Rico as an unincorporated territory. 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.

Besides including Puerto Rico in its definition of a U.S territory, the Office of Insular Affairs also categorizes Puerto Rico as a U.S. commonwealth, defined as an organized United States insular area that has established with the federal government a more highly developed relationship, usually embodied in a written mutual agreement.

Igartúa said that although the courts said otherwise, the reality is that Puerto Rico has already been incorporated as a territory because Puerto Ricans enjoy all the rights and benefits afforded by the U.S. Constitution except for the presidential vote.

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