Congress Has an Obligation to Resolve Puerto Rico’s Status as a Territory of the United States

Recognition by National, State and Grassroots Leaders

 

Presidents of the United States

President Donald Trump tweeted on September 21, 2017: “Governor @RicardoRossello– We are with you and the people of Puerto Rico. Stay safe! #PRStrong.”

President Donald Trump tweeted on September 19, 2017: “Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you-will be there to help!”

President-elect Barack Obama,  letter to Rep. Luis Fortuño, January 2, 2009.

I am fully aware of the difficulties that Puerto Rico has faced in the past when dealing with this issue, but self-determination is a basic right to be addressed no matter how difficult.  Your right to self-determination is deepened even further by the brave service that Puerto Ricans have provided to the nation’s armed forces, protecting all our people from foreign dangers throughout the past century. We will work to give a voice to the people of Puerto Rico to enable them to determine their political future.

President Bill Clinton, Executive Order 13183, Establishment of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, December 23, 2000.  It is the policy of the executive branch of the Government of the United States of America to help answer the questions that the people of Puerto Rico have asked for years regarding the options for the islands’ future status and the process for realizing an option.  Read more

President Bill Clinton, News Conference in Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, February 16, 2000.  Q.  [D]o you believe in your heart that Puerto Rico’s colonial status is the root of this problem [the local discontent with Navy bombing and military exercises on the island] or is [it] related to Puerto Ricans’ ambivalence to issues of national security? Read more

President Bill Clinton, Remarks on the United States – Puerto Rico Political Status Act (H.R. 856), Democratic Governors’ Association Dinner, February 23, 1998.  This is the centennial year of Puerto Rico’s affiliation with the United States.  And I think that it is time that we responded to the aspirations of the 4 million U.S. citizens who live there and allow them to determine their ultimate political status. Read more

President Bill Clinton, Letter to the José E. Aponte, Mayor of Carolina, April 4, 1997, as contained in the Committee on Resources Transcript No. 105-28, Field Hearing on Puerto Rico Status, San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 19, 1997, p. 21I have made it clear that the federal government should offer the people of Puerto Rico serious and fair options that are responsive to their diverse aspirations for their islands, so that the option authorized by a majority of votes can be implemented.

President George H. W. Bush, Teleconference Remarks to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, April 24, 1992.  My choice is for statehood.  But I also say that the matter should be left up to the people of Puerto Rico.  And so we will continue to push in a reluctant Congress to get them to come along and support [California Republican Member] Bob Lagormarsino’s approach, to support a referendum that will make the determination.  And then we’d have to follow on with whatever is required after that.

President George H. W. Bush, as quoted by Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, Attorney General, before the Senate Energy Committee, February 7, 1991, p. 186.  The President and his administration strongly favor the right of the people of Puerto Rico to choose their political status by means of a referendum.  The President has repeatedly declared that the people of Puerto Rico should have the right to determine their political future.  In his view, it is inconsistent for us to “applaud the exciting and momentous movements toward freedom in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere while refusing to grant to our own citizens the right to self-determination.”  Congress should allow the people of Puerto Rico to determine their own political future because it is simply fair and right.

President George H. W. Bush, State of the Union Address, 1989.   I’ve long believed that the people of Puerto Rico should have the right to determine their own political future. Personally, I strongly favor statehood. But I urge the Congress to take the necessary steps to allow the people to decide in a referendum.

President Ronald Reagan, White House Statement, January 12, 1982.  We recognize the right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination[.]  [T]his administration will accept whatever choice is made by a majority of the island’s population.

Presidential Candidate Ronald Reagan, “Puerto Rico and Statehood,” Wall Street Journal, February 11, 1980.  When I formally announced my intention to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, my televised speech to the nation included a commitment to not only support statehood for Puerto Rico if the people of the island Commonwealth desire statehood.  It also included a commitment that, as President, I would initiate statehood legislation, which really means that I would take the lead in persuading the people of Puerto Rico – the mainland United States – all American citizens – that statehood will be good for all of us.

President Jimmy Carter, State of the Union Address, 1981. I have been firmly committed to self-determination for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, and have vigorously supported the realization of whatever political status aspirations are democratically chosen by their peoples.

President Gerald Ford, Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate, Submitting Proposed Puerto Rico Statehood Legislation, January 14, 1977. Since 1900, Presidents and Congresses have debated the question of statehood for Puerto Rico. Some progress has been made in providing the people of Puerto Rico with greater autonomy and a greater measure of self-government. But these great people are still not represented with a vote in either the House or Senate. They are still not represented in the election of a President. Read more

President Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the First Meeting of the United States-Puerto Rico Commission on the Status of Puerto Rico, June 9, 1964The United States has a traditional and deep-seated national commitment to the principle of self-determination.  That is why the administration and the Congress responded promptly and affirmatively to the resolution of the Puerto Rican Legislature requesting a review of the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico.  [The United States-Puerto Rico Commission on the Status of Puerto Rico] is the result[.]

President John F. Kennedy, White House Statement, May 20, 1963.  Questions have been raised in the Puerto Rican press about the administration’s position on the legislation proposed to establish a procedure for dealing with the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico. The administration strongly supports such a procedure and reiterates its commitment to the concept of self-determination[.]

 

Other Executive Branch Statements

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer to President D. Trump, June 12, 2017:

Q: Does the President have a reaction to the vote in Puerto Rico yesterday — the nonbinding measure calling for statehood as the first choice of the people for their future?

A: This matter is something that’s going to be determined now that the people have spoken in Puerto Rico.  This is something that Congress has to address.  So the process will have to work its way out through Congress.

Report by the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, March 2011, page 33. The Task Force believes that the time to act is now.

[T]he Task Force recognizes that the status question and the economy are intimately linked.  Many participants in the forums conducted by the Task Force argued that uncertainty about status is holding Puerto Rico back in economic areas.

In short, the long-term economic well-being of Puerto Rico would be dramatically improved by an early decision on the status question

Report by The President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, December 2007, pp.5-6.  Congress may continue the current commonwealth system indefinitely, but it necessarily retains the constitutional authority to revise or revoke the powers of self-government currently exercised by the government of Puerto Rico.  Thus, while the commonwealth of Puerto Rico enjoys significant political autonomy, it is important to recognize that, as long as Puerto Rico remains a territory, its system is subject to revision by Congress.

Memorandum from Secretary of State Colin Powell to Belize Embassy concerning “Possible Puerto Rican Requests for Recognition,” May 16, 2003.  The Department is aware that Puerto Rican government officials have approached a number of countries . . . seeking treatment normally only accorded to a sovereign state.  The two most recent examples were in Nicaragua and Panama where the Puerto Ricans pressed government officials to sign cooperation agreements which contained language normally reserved for pacts with foreign states.  In November 2002, Puerto Rico attempted unsuccessfully to elicit recognition as a sovereign state at the Ibero-American summit in the Dominican Republic.  The department reiterates that the U.S. federal government is responsible for Puerto Rico’s foreign affairs.

Jeffrey L. Farrow, Co-Chair of President Clinton’s Interagency Group on Puerto Rico, Testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, October 4, 2000, p. 15-16.  Many aspects of this [Enhanced Commonwealth] proposal would require actions by the United States to be implemented, so Puerto Ricans should know the United States’ views on it before they consider it. Read more

Jeffrey L. Farrow, Co-Chair of President Clinton’s Interagency Group on Puerto Rico, Testimony before the House Resources Committee, March 19, 1997, p. 90.  [President Clinton has] recognized that the frustrating debate is likely to persist until the Federal Government clarifies what the options really are and how they can be implemented. The differing status aspirations that Puerto Ricans have long discussed largely hinge on fundamental Federal decisions that have not been made. Read more

Richard Thornburgh, Attorney General, Statement before the Senate Energy Committee, February 7, 1991 It would be a disservice to the people of Puerto Rico to postpone resolution of [constitutional and other legal infirmities] until after a particular status option has been chosen in the plebiscite, expectations about that status option have been created, and Congress is considering actually implementing legislation.

Edward S.G. Dennis, Acting Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Statement before the Senate Energy Committee, July 11, 1989, p. 22.  [I]t is essential that clear choices be offered to the Puerto Rican people.  Further, these choices must represent realistic, workable, and economically viable options.

Former Executive Branch Officials

Attorney General and Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh, Puerto Rico’s Future:  A Time to Decide, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007, pp. 5-6 .  The disenfranchisement of the people of Puerto Rico for more than a century, since the United States acquired Puerto Rico, from Spain at the end of the nineteenth century, cannot be squared with our nation’s historic commitments to equality and self-determination, with the international treaties and covenants the United States has joined since World War II, or with other steps the United States has taken during the past 50 years to resolve the political status of territories under U.S. control (e.g. Alaska and Hawaii) Read more

Attorney General and Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh, as quoted by Pedro Rosselló, Governor of Puerto Rico, Testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, May 6, 1999.

“Only Congress can define terms for statehood, separate nationhood or continuation of the current status so that informed self – determination is possible.” Read more

Ambassador Fred M. Zeder, President Ford’s Director of Territorial Affairs and President Reagan’s Personal Representative for Micronesian Status Negotiations and Chief Negotiator of the historic compact of Free Association, “Understanding Free Association as a Form of Separate Sovereignty and Political Independence in the Case of the Decolonization of Puerto Rico,” as presented by Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-FL) during debate of H.R. 856, March 4, 1998, Congressional Record, page H784.  Obviously, Puerto Rico can not act unilaterally to establish a new status.  This is so not only because of U.S. sovereignty and the authority of Congress under the territorial clause, but also because Puerto Rico seeks the agreement of the U.S. to the terms under which any of these options would be implemented.  This means Congress must agree to the terms under which a new status is defined and implemented.

Congress, on behalf of the United States, and the people of Puerto Rico, acting through their constitutional process, must decide whether decolonization will be completed through completion of the process for integration into union or separation and nationhood apart from the U.S. for Puerto Rico.

Ambassador Fred M. Zeder, President Ford’s Director of Territorial Affairs and President Reagan’s Personal Representative for Micronesian Status Negotiations and Chief Negotiator of the historic compact of Free Association, Statement before the House Committee on Resources, Hearing on the United States – Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 19, 1997, p. 120.  I wish you every success in your attempt to reverse the effects of decades of anachronistic territorial administration in Puerto Rico in a way that enables the people to redeem their dignity by making a determined choice between real options that can be implemented free of perverse ambiguities. Only in that way will the citizenry of the island, in the same manner as all the citizens in this nation, be enabled to realize their human and cultural potential, and protect their God-given liberty.

Whether that is accomplished through integration leading to statehood, independence, or independence with free association (associated republic status), history calls on the Congress and the people of Puerto Rico to end the current temporary status and achieve full self-government as the new century begins.

International Treaties

Treaty of Peace, Kingdom of Spain and the United States of America, upon the transferring of Puerto Rico from Spain to U.S. sovereignty, December 10, 1898, Article IX.  The civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the territories hereby ceded to the United States shall be determined by the Congress.

Political Party Platforms

2016 Democratic National Platform And we are committed to addressing the extraordinary challenges faced by our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico. Many stem from the fundamental question of Puerto Rico’s political status.Democrats believe that the people of Puerto Rico should determine their ultimate political status from permanent options that do not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the United States. Democrats are committed to promoting economic opportunity and good-paying jobs for the hardworking people of Puerto Rico. We also believe that Puerto Ricans must be treated equally by Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs that benefit families. Puerto Ricans should be able to vote for the people who make their laws, just as they should be treated equally.All American citizens, no matter where they reside, should have the right to vote for the President of the United States. Finally, we believe that federal officials must respect Puerto Rico’s local self-government as laws are implemented and Puerto Rico’s budget and debt are restructured so that it can get on a path towards stability and prosperity.

2016 Republican National Platform We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state. We further recognize the historic significance of the 2012 local referendum in which a 54 percent majority voted to end Puerto Rico’s current status as a U.S. territory, and 61 percent chose statehood over options for sovereign nationhood. We support the federally sponsored political status referendum authorized and funded by an Act of Congress in 2014 to ascertain the aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico. Once the 2012 local vote for statehood is ratified, Congress should approve an enabling act with terms for Puerto Rico’s future admission as the 51st state of the Union.

2012 Democratic National Platform. (Page 16) As President Obama said when he became the first President to visit Puerto Rico and address its people in 50 years, Boricuas every day help write the American story. Puerto Ricans have been proud American citizens for almost 100 years. During that time, the people of Puerto Rico have developed strong political, economic, social, and cultural ties to the United States. The political status of Puerto Rico remains an issue of overwhelming importance, but lack of resolution about status has held the island back. It is time for Puerto Rico to take the next step in the history of its status and its relationship to the rest of the United States. The White House Task Force Report on Puerto Rico has taken important and historic steps regarding status. We commit to moving resolution of the status issue forward with the goal of resolving it expeditiously. If local efforts in Puerto Rico to resolve the status issue do not provide a clear result in the short term, the President should support, and Congress should enact, self-executing legislation that specifies in advance for the people of Puerto Rico a set of clear status options, such as those recommended in the White House Task Force Report on Puerto Rico, which the United States is politically committed to fulfilling.

2012 Republican National Platform. We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state if they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a State, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the U.S. government.

2008 Democratic National PlatformWe believe that the people of Puerto Rico have the right to the political status of their choice, obtained through a fair, neutral, and democratic process of self-determination.  The White House and Congress will work with all groups in Puerto Rico to enable the question of Puerto Rico’s status to be resolved during the next four years.

2008 Republican National PlatformWe support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the Constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the United States government.

2004 Democratic National Platform.  As we encourage democracy around the world, we must extend democracy here at home. We believe that four million disenfranchised American citizens residing in Puerto Rico have the right to the permanent and fully democratic status of their choice.  The White House and Congress will clarify the realistic status options for Puerto Rico and enable Puerto Ricans to choose among them.

2004 Republican National PlatformWe support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the Constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the United States government.

2000 Democratic National Platform.  Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, but the island’s ultimate status still has not been determined and its 3.9 million residents still do not have voting representation in their national government. These disenfranchised citizens – who have contributed greatly to our country in war and peace – are entitled to the permanent and fully democratic status of their choice. Democrats will continue to work in the White House and Congress to clarify the options and enable them to choose and to obtain such a status from among all realistic options.

2000 Republican National Platform.  We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent status with the government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a State, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the United States government.

United States Congress

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Senate floor statements, October 25, 2017: If you want to know why Puerto Rico has been in a decade-long recession, look no further than Congress. More than 50 years ago, the U.S. Government launched several initiatives to help spur economic growth on the island. It was a good thing. Ironically enough, the initiatives were collectively called Operation Bootstrap. One of the tools that were used to spur economic growth was a tax break to allow U.S. manufacturing companies to avoid corporate income taxes on profits that were made in Puerto Rico. Manufacturers descended on the island in droves, and the entire economy in Puerto Rico became oriented around those companies. But what Congress gives, Congress can take away, especially if the entity you are taking from has no meaningful representation in Congress. In 1996, Congress phased out the tax breaks. Guess what. It sucked the island’s tax base away, cratering Puerto Rico’s economy for the next two decades. It is worth noting that Puerto Rico is not blameless for the financial situation that it is in. There definitely has been a fair share of mismanagement on the island. Bad decisions have been made. Saying that Puerto Rico is only a victim of schemes of the mainland is not true. But the same can be said of fiscal mismanagement and bad decisions in other U.S. States. But a century of under investment in Puerto Rico has been a big part of the story as to how they arrived at this situation. And unlike all those other U.S. States, Puerto Rico has no way of rectifying the past misdeeds because its toolbox to reckon with its past is limited to what Congress sticks in the toolbox, and that toolbox doesn’t provide access to the Bankruptcy Code.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), House floor statement, October 25, 2017: Do you know we have millions of Americans who can’t vote and are not represented in Congress? This anomaly was brought home to us in a very sharp way over the last several weeks with the crisis in Puerto Rico, where people still lack access to medicines that they need, where people—a majority of the population still lacks access to clean water, and power is out for four-fifths of the population. Those are our people. Those are our citizens. Those are Americans in Puerto Rico. But why were they treated differently? Why was there this notorious negligence and lethargy in responding to the plight of people in Puerto Rico? Well, they have no voting representatives in this Chamber or in the United States Senate, so we have got millions of people unrepresented….

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senate floor statements, October 24, 2017: The loss of life, the loss of American lives—our fellow citizens have died because of their lack of access to electricity and the lack of access to oxygen. We are Americans. I know our character. I know our spirit. But right now, there are hundreds of thousands of people in our country who are suffering. They may not be proximate to us in geography; they may not be next to us in sight. But the spirit we need right now is the spirit of that man standing in the storm, watching over his neighbors, watching over people passing through, being there for their own. We have work to do. We have an urgency. Where children are suffering without the basics, where schools are closed, where crops have been destroyed, where access to food has been destroyed, we have work to do. So my sense of urgency right now is believing that, as a first step, we must have a comprehensive aid package—not just to help our fellow Americans in Florida and Texas where there are urgent crises still going on. The gravity of the pain and suffering in the Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico right now is unimaginable for those of us who are not experiencing it, and it is unacceptable for us, as Americans, not to be there for our fellow citizens.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Senate floor statements, October 19, 2017: Let me also echo that I absolutely support his notion that the American citizens in Puerto Rico deserve not to be forgotten and deserve to receive the same attention we have bestowed upon Americans in Texas or in Florida or in Louisiana or elsewhere around our great country when they were victims of national disasters.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senate floor statements, October 19, 2017: Mr. President, another area where it is critical that we come together, not as 50 separate States but as the United States of America, is to help the 3.5 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico do not have a U.S. Senator to cast their vote for them or to raise their voices for them. Yet, as long as I am a Member of this Chamber, I am going to continue to prick the conscience of the Senate to understand that when we walk to the Vietnam wall and see those names, a disproportionate number of them are Americans of Puerto Rican descent, who wore the uniform, gave their lives, and made the ultimate sacrifice. They did not leave the conflict early; they gave it their all. We cannot leave them early, nor should we leave them short.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), House floor statement, October 12, 2017 : I think the American people deserve more from us in this body, especially when so many issues like CHIP, like DACA, like Puerto Rico, and many others have gone unanswered by us in this body, the House of Representatives, or by colleagues across the way in the Senate.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), House floor statement, October 10, 2017: Today, here in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate, as well as in the administration, we are beginning to gear up for yet another emergency appropriation to pay for the relief efforts that are underway.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senate floor statement, October 5, 2017: I remind my colleagues that Puerto Ricans are not just citizens of the United States— which, in and of itself, should speak to the compelling arguments we should be engaged in helping Puerto Rico as our fellow Americans. In the aftermath of this unprecedented disaster, these Americans deserve the same rights, the same respect, and the same response from their Federal Government.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Senate floor statement, October 5, 2017: The 3.5 million people who live on the island of Puerto Rico are our fellow U.S. citizens, and it is our duty to provide aid to them in their time of need. Now, Congress must come together to help these Americans rebuild homes and businesses, restore critical infrastructure, and access life-sustaining supplies. In Congress, our top priority should be making sure the people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have the funding they need to rebuild and recover. We cannot delay providing this much needed funding any longer. It has been tragic to see thousands of shipping containers held at ports, which have been full of critical, life-sustaining supplies that are not reaching those most in need. The U.S. citizens who live in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are at risk of running out of food, water, and fuel. It would be unconscionable for us to abandon them in their time of need.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senate floor statement, October 5, 2017: There is another urgent matter demanding our full attention: hurricane relief for Puerto Rico. The pictures coming from Puerto Rico are heartbreaking. The devastation that has hit the island as a result of Hurricane Maria deserves the same commitment and support that would go to any other location in the United States. Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents are American citizens, and they should be treated just the same as residents of Florida, Texas, and Louisiana.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), House floor statement, October 4, 2017:  The people of Puerto Rico are literally crying out for help. There are far too many, especially those in rural communities, who still have not been reached by those bringing aid. As a Representative from an island State in Hawaii, I can only imagine their frustration and desperation. I urge the administration to dedicate all available resources to helping the people of Puerto Rico.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate floor statement, October 3, 2017: The 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are counting on their President. These are American citizens.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Senate floor statement, October 3, 2017: Our committee has had the proud distinction of working with the territories for the last 70-plus years. Certainly, following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, we are committed to upholding our responsibilities to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Perhaps it is because I was born in a territory—I need to actually look this up; it may be that I am the only Member of Congress or Member in the Senate who was actually born in a territory—but I feel an affinity. One would not think there is much connection between a small island territory like Puerto Rico and the large landmass that we have in Alaska, but in many ways, Alaska is also islanded in the sense that we are not part of the continental 48. So I do follow with great interest and care how Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are included.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), House floor statement, October 3, 2017: My beloved Puerto Rico, you are not alone. We hear your cries for help and the full strength of the American government and military is finally coming to help. It has been slow and no one has been as frustrated as I am that the response did not happen with the urgency and priority that Puerto Ricans—and every human being who is suffering—deserve. I tell my colleagues what I saw and what you told me while I was there. I will work with them immediately, and make sure that this Congress treats Puerto Rico fairly and generously. And I am not alone. The other Puerto Ricans and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are working with the leadership of the House to put together an aid package. Cities and towns, Mayors and Governors from across the country are making their communities available to you so that you have a safe place to be while the rescue and recovery and rebuilding continues. And standing with the Mayor of Chicago just yesterday, he said he wants the City of Chicago to be a place where any and all Puerto Ricans who need a safe place can come and we will help you resettle. You are not alone.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-NY), House floor statement, October 3, 2017: We need to make sure that all Americans, wherever they may be, in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, or Washington, Virginia, wherever, that they have the tools to compete.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), House floor statement, October 3, 2017:  These are American citizens, and we have an obligation to do everything we can to help after this devastating hurricane.

Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA), House floor statement, October 2, 2017: Mr. Speaker, I rise today because American citizens are suffering in Puerto Rico. Twelve days after Hurricane Maria made landfall, more than half of the island’s residents are still without running water. Low-income communities have been hit especially hard. They are trying to survive through unsafe and unsanitary conditions, where the basics of life can be impossible to find. After an earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, I was proud to see that America deployed every available resource the very next day at the crack of dawn to help out. But I wonder why the same response wasn’t deployed to help Americans in Puerto Rico. I call on the administration and Congress to ensure that Puerto Rico receives the emergency aid it needs now so we don’t lose more American lives to the storm. Congress must also provide real relief and aid to our brothers and sisters there. The situation in Puerto Rico is dire, and our fellow Americans are counting on us to act now.

Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), House floor statement, October 2, 2017: They all are American citizens. When it benefits this Nation to have Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands be a part of the United States, it does not hesitate. But when these American citizens are in trouble, they deserve the same rights that every American citizen benefits from in this great Nation—and it is great, and we want to continue to make sure that it remains great. I continue to make the point, Mr. Speaker, that these are American citizens we are talking about. This is not foreign aid. This is not mutual aid. This is aiding American citizens in trouble, in disaster, in peril, no insulin for diabetics, no dialysis for kidney patients in two or three weeks. That is a death sentence, Mr. Speaker, and we cannot allow it to continue.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), House floor statement, October 2, 2017: Mr. Speaker, we need to be looking at what we can do as Americans to support our fellow citizens and the steps that we can take to build more resilient infrastructure in the wake of such devastating natural disasters. Each and every American shares in the responsibility to face these natural disasters together as one nation, and we cannot afford to ignore entire segments of the population in the wake of these disasters.

Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL), House floor statement, October 2, 2017: Our prayers go out to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and we are prepared to stand by them as they face the daunting task of rebuilding their communities. We will continue to work together with our State, local, and Federal officials to ensure that Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands can recover and build even stronger than before.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Senate floor statement, September 28, 2017: As I started out to say, it is not just Texas we are talking about anymore; it is Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands too. We all remember that those places were hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria right after Texas was hit by Harvey. I want to make one thing clear, though: We in Texas stand together with our fellow Americans who suffered from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, as well as those who suffered from other natural disasters occurring in and around our country, and we will do everything we can to help the people who were harmed and damaged, even devastated by these terrible storms. We will help them fight to get back on their feet, to recover, and to return their lives to some form of normalcy.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Senate floor statement, September 28, 2017: I appreciate the commitment at the legislative level for what needs to be done in Puerto Rico. Mr. President, we also need to continue to apply pressure to the administration because it does appear as though there is an unequal response between what is happening in Puerto Rico and what has happened in Houston and in Florida. So we need to hold as a country the executive branch accountable for the lack of a sense of urgency for 3.5 million Americans who are mostly going to be without power for 9 months, who are currently without potable water, who are in a devastated situation. It is our obligation to do everything we can.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), House floor statement, September 28, 2017: More than 3.4 million people reside in Puerto Rico alone—U.S. citizens who are in need of full support of the Federal Government. This is more than the population of Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, and Alaska combined— U.S. citizens, yet they have no voting Members of Congress. U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands serve in our military. In fact, Puerto Ricans serve in our military at a rate twice the general U.S. population, and they are hurting… These Americans do not have voting representation in Congress that allows their representatives to most effectively advocate on their behalf. Therefore, it is incumbent on all of us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens and provide them with the support that they desperately need.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House floor statement, September 28, 2017: Obviously, our fellow Americans who are residents of two islands, or actually more than two islands, but that comprise Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, are in life threatening distress…

Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), House floor statement, September 28, 2017: The thousands of Puerto Ricans and all of the Virgin Islanders I represent deserve to know that our Nation’s priority is their well-being, their families’, their friends’, and their fellow citizens’ as well—American citizens.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senate floor statement, September 27, 2017: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands shouldn’t have to wait a second longer for aid than any other American State or Territory.

Sen. Angus King (I-ME), Senate floor statement, September 27, 2017: So this is clearly a responsibility that we have as Senators, as Members of Congress, and as Americans to reach out to our neighbors in a situation such as this. When a crisis hits, it often calls forth the best of America, and I believe that is happening right now.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senate floor statement, September 27, 2017: The people of Texas, Florida, and throughout the gulf coast and the Southeast who have been affected by the storms have received the full commitment of America. It is what we owe our fellow Americans. That same commitment is owed to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. We saw an immediate disaster response there that must also be devoted to Puerto Rico. The emergency aid and full funding made to the victims of those storms in the gulf coast and Florida must be given to Puerto Rico, and I am hopeful that a relief bill will be fashioned this week… We have an obligation—certainly, no less than rebuilding our European allies—to restore and rebuild Puerto Rico… People are calling my office asking what they can do for the people of Florida and the gulf coast and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They are all fellow Americans, and we owe it to them to do more and do better to make sure that we keep faith with our fellow Americans. I thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity to talk about this subject.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senate floor statement, September 27, 2017: The people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are desperate for our help. This situation is extreme. Congress and the administration need to act as soon as possible… Coming to the aid of our fellow Americans at a time of crisis, in my view, is at the very core of being Americans…  Colleagues, I close simply by way of saying that we should expect no less in our efforts here in the Senate to help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The American people now have to be part of a mobilization to bring together the enormous resources in the Federal Government to help when disaster strikes. It is a matter of basic fairness and humanity to help protect and restore these American citizens and lands.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), House floor statement, September 27, 2017: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents, bring a bill to the floor. Let’s get this done, and let’s address the humanitarian crisis that is besetting citizens in Puerto Rico.

Rep. French Hill (R-AR), House floor statement, September 27, 2017: Mr. Speaker, I believe it is time to set up a joint task force, with one person in charge, able to make decisions and not get ‘‘stuck on stupid,’’ as one Army general famously said. That general, Russell Honore, turned around the government floundering after taking charge of Joint Task Force Katrina. On the ground, the joint task force can coordinate all public and private relief efforts, starting with putting our National Guard to work, reopening the air tower, clearing the roads, and opening a chow hall. I continue to pray for Puerto Rico, but each of us must understand our beloved island’s crisis is very different.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), House floor statement, September 27, 2017: Taken together, these five tax provisions go a long way, we believe, in helping these people recover from these storms. The rule also makes clarifications to ensure Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are treated equitably in all tax sections of this bill. I spent time this week speaking with the gentlewoman from Puerto Rico (Miss González-Colón) and the gentlewoman from the Virgin Islands (Ms. Plaskett) in talking about not only their immediate needs, but also the long-term needs. Both were vigorous in not only their request for help, but also, equally, I think, balanced in their request for the legislation that would take place today. They represent so many hardworking people, people who are proud people in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and they are looking for a way to work through not only where they are, but, in looking forward over the long term, about how they are going to put their islands back together. I have had many phone conversations with both of them over the last 48 hours. They have asked for our prayers, they have asked for our help, and I have pledged to do both. But I told them that I believe this House of Representatives would very carefully understand their special request at this time because the islands are under increased pressure simply to get planes that would land to allow not only the bringing in of emergency supplies, but also taking out people who would need to come ashore, for those that might be children, elderly people, or the sick.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), House floor statement, September 27, 2017: Now it is time for Congress to do our part to help our fellow Americans in my district and in similar communities throughout my home State of Florida, in Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands…

Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), House floor statement, September 27, 2017: We can do much more for our American brothers and sisters in the Caribbean, especially given that the administration continues to drag its feet in terms of sending an emergency supplemental request. That should be done forthwith. We can do better, and we must do better… We need to do more to help our fellow Americans recover from these tragedies.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), House floor statement, September 27, 2017: I can’t support a bill before us today which is not even close to providing the robust relief that Puerto Rico needs. You know it, and we know it. The Congress and this administration need to step up, help Puerto Rico recover. I plan to reintroduce legislation to extend the earned income tax credit to residents of Puerto Rico, and I hope my colleagues will support it.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), House floor statement, September 27, 2017: American citizens in Puerto Rico cannot even get cash out of an ATM without waiting hours in line. Providing funds based on the assessed value of those provisions for Puerto Rico is insufficient. It is a fig leaf offered by Republicans so that they can check it off their list. In order to truly help the many victims affected by the hurricanes, Congress needs to start by providing the economic support required to recover. Mr. Speaker, this bill is unworkable for Puerto Rico as it stands now. I applaud the effort and speed with which this was drafted, but it must be strengthened to truly address the needs of Americans in these disaster areas.

Rep. David Scott (D-GA), House floor statement, September 27, 2017: Let’s treat the American people the way they deserve. There is no better time. You are talking about expanding the help. Our people, American citizens in Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas, deserve for us to have a complete flood insurance program, not piecemeal.

Rep Rob Bishop (R-UT), House Committee on Natural Resources, Website statement, September 25, 2017: The residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have been devastated by Hurricane Maria, a storm that took human lives and left millions without power, water and stable infrastructure. This is the most unfortunate circumstances that both of these U.S. territories could possibly face given the recent devastation of Hurricane Irma. I, along with all of our committee members, pray for all those impacted. I have spoken with Resident Commissioner Gonzalez on the extent of the damage, as well as plans for relief, and will be working with Delegate Plaskett on a similar plan of action. Together, we will advocate for the full support of the federal government. Both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are in dire need of our assistance and we will do everything in our power to ensure that all necessary resources are made available. As Americans, both in the mainland and throughout all of our territories, we are all in this together.”

Speaker Ryan (R-WI), Prepared Statement, September 25, 2017: “The stories and images coming out of Puerto Rico are devastating. Congress is working with the administration to ensure necessary resources get to the U.S. territory. Our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico remain in our prayers as we make sure they have what they need.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Prepared statement, September 25, 2017: Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands deserve to know that their government will be there for them, without question or hesitation. Americans from every corner of the country send our thoughts and prayers to those in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have been devastated by the unprecedented and catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Maria. The Trump Administration must act immediately to make available additional Department of Defense resources for search-and-rescue operations, law enforcement and transportation needs.  At the same time, Republicans must join with Democrats in Congress to address the needs of the communities in crisis by swiftly passing a robust relief package that provides assistance not only today, but throughout the long road to recovery.”

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), Letter to President Trump, September 21, 2017: “It is important that the federal government stands ready to assist in the difficult days after Hurricane Maria passes, when hope must be available to combat despair.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senate Floor Statement, September 19, 2017: Let me close by asking all of you to take a moment tonight, if you can and you wish, to pray for the island of Puerto Rico, a U.S. Territory, where millions of our fellow Americans are staring down the barrel of the most powerful storm that ever has perhaps hit that island, and this after already getting hit by Irma just a week ago. It has the potential to be an extraordinary catastrophe. We pray that is not the case. I hope we stand ready to assist our fellow Americans on the island of Puerto Rico. Let’s pray for them tonight because tomorrow morning is going to be a very difficult time for them as this extraordinary hurricane, Hurricane Maria, is about to slam right into them

Rep. Don Young (R-AK), House Floor Statement before House Session, June 15, 2017, Congressional Record, page H4934. I think it is time for this Congress to make the 3,400,000 American citizens part of the United States—in full grandeur, as every one of us have—and have a chance of making sure we can vote for everyone to be part of this.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Floor Statement before House Session, June 15, 2017, Congressional Record, page H4934. The Puerto Rican election that was held overwhelmingly voted for statehood as the option of governance they wanted to pursue. It is now, it seems to me, the responsibility of the United States Congress and the administration to recognize the overwhelming sentiment of the Puerto Rican people, expressed in a free and open election.

Rep. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Statement on Puerto Rico’s Vote for Statehood, June 12, 2017. Those who stand to gain financially from a continuation of the status quo will seek to delegitimize the results of this federally authorized plebiscite. I wrote the law making this plebiscite possible so Congress could get a clear understanding of the wishes of the American citizens of Puerto Rico. They have now sent a clear and unambiguous message that they want to transition from a territory to a state. Congress needs to begin looking at ways to fulfill the wishes of these fellow Americans, as it has for all previous territories that voted for statehood.

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), House Floor Statement before House Session, Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, June 9, 2016, Congressional Record, page H3604 Well, there is a bigger problem, and I think it is time Congress came together with the people of Rico and decided to end the colonial status. But ending the colonial status does not mean tweaking the colony to make it a little better or washing the face of the colony to make it a little more presentable. It means getting rid of the colony and either becoming the 51st State or an independent nation. There is no other solution. And for us, as the people who promote—and rightfully so—democracy throughout the world, to have a colony for 118 years is wrong. And remember, Puerto Rico didn’t do this by itself. The indifference and inequality created this problem, as much as everything else.

Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, December 20, 2016. If the government of Puerto Rico conducts a plebiscite authorized and funded by Public Law 113-76, the Task Force recommends that Congress analyze the result of this plebiscite with care and seriousness of purpose, and take any appropriate legislative action.

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), Statement before the House Committee on Natural Resources, The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Analysis of the Situation in Puerto Rico, February 25, 2016, page 42. The people of Puerto Rico did not invade the United States. The United States invaded the people of Puerto Rico. At the minimum, the U.S. Congress has to tell Puerto Rico what is available on the table for a change in status. It is obvious that the present status is a problem. Why is it a problem? If there has ever been a need for proof that Puerto Rico is a colony, we just found it.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, House Floor,  July 28, 2015. We own it.  It is ours and we are responsible for it.  The Congress of the United States governs this island.  It is our colony and we rule over it.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Capitol Hill Rally for Puerto Rican Equality, November 19, 2013.  Fifty four percent of Puerto Ricans rejected their current form of government, and for anyone who ascribes to take seriously self-determination for democracy, [this] now requires a response.

I believe that Congress has a responsibility to respond to that referendum.

The debate over Puerto Rico’s status needs to be settled once and for all so that its people can focus on their prosperity. It is time for Puerto Rico to have a democratically legitimate form of government.

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), Capitol Hill Rally for Puerto Rican Equality, November 19, 2013.  

I come from a state that has .25% Puerto Ricans, but they have embraced the people of Puerto Rico, they have embraced a young man who was born in Puerto Rico.

I believe that [Puerto Rican self determination] is the right thing for the American people to be behind, it’s something that Reagan believed in, it’s something that Bush believed in and it’s something that I think Conservatives and Republicans should believe in: The right of self-determination.

I think that we need to stand together so we can all be equal citizens of the United States.

Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR),Opening Statement before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, August 1, 2013, S. Hrg. 113-76, pages 1 and 2.  Puerto Rico has been an ‘‘unincorporated territory’’ of the United States since the conclusion of the Spanish American War, 115 years ago.  After 115 years it is clearly time for Puerto Rico to determine what political path it will take.

The current relationship undermines our country’s moral standing in the world.  For a Nation founded on the principles of democracy and the consent of the governed, how much longer can America allow a condition to persist in which nearly 4 million U.S. citizens do not have a vote in the government that makes the national laws which effect their daily lives?  That is the question.

Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR), Testimony before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, August 1, 2013, S. Hrg. 113-76, page 20.  It is true that Puerto Rico should drive the self-determination process – and we are.  But it is equally true that Congress has a constructive role to play in this process for both legal and moral reasons.

As a legal matter, the Constitution vests Congress with broad authority over its territories, including the power to decide whether, when and how to “dispose of” a territory.  For Puerto Rico to become a state or sovereign nation, it is not enough for Puerto Rico to seek such a change; Congress – and the president – must act to enable that change.

As a moral matter, the federal government rightfully prides itself as a champion of democracy and self-determination around the world.  It should – indeed, it must – adhere to those principles with respect to its own citizens.

On November 6th, Puerto Rico withdrew its consent to territory status and expressed a preference for statehood.  Congress must respect – and provide a constructive response to – the democratically expressed aspirations of its citizens.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), House Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3029. To the United States, [the acquisition of Puerto Rico after the Spanish American War] marked a milestone in our own political development. When once our Union of States was comprised of renegade English colonies, we then stepped into a role that we previously had fought against. Given our own experience, would anyone have imagined that our new colony would be disenfranchised and kept unequal in our own political framework?

With this history before us, I join those who say it is time for Congress to provide the people of Puerto Rico with an unambiguous path toward permanently resolving its political status that is consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

Rep. Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR), House Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3031. We’re not meddling.  We’re assuming a responsibility. The relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States is bilateral in nature. For any change in the status of Puerto Rico to happen, two things must happen: the people of Puerto Rico must request it, the 4 million American citizens strong who live in Puerto Rico and Congress must grant it.  Congress is vested.

Rep. Don Young (D-AK), House Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3032. [W]e have 4 million people that have waited for an opportunity to become a State, an independent nation, or whatever they wish, a free association, it is time we give them that opportunity.

I still vividly remember the words of our Former Territorial Governor and U.S. Senator, Ernest Gruening, who would shout to anyone who cared to listen that: “Let us end American colonialism.” While he was talking about Alaska, similar statements have been made by Puerto Rican elected officials for decades.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), House Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3033. I have felt the unfairness it is to call people citizens and yet to have to acknowledge that when it comes to health care, education, jobs, the only time that you can really know that Puerto Ricans are treated as Americans are treated is when they are drafted or when they volunteer to serve this great country of ours and when it ends up, you will find, that per capita more people from Puerto Rico have died and been wounded defending our flag than from any State or any territory. So it just seems to me that something has to be done. It is so truly unfair to respect our flag and respect our citizens and to tell them that they can fight a war when they can’t even vote for the President.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), House Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3035. It will boil it down to what the people of Puerto Rico really want. I believe they want statehood, and we ought to let them determine that.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3035. I am convinced that Congress must provide the people of Puerto Rico the opportunity to voice their preferences….Puerto Rico has been a territory for 112 years, and it has been an important part of this country in peacetime and in war.  Four million residents of Puerto Rico are American citizens and they are bound by Federal law, and yet Congress has never asked Puerto Ricans to officially express their views on the island’s political status.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Republican Conference Chairman, House Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3036. As a conservative who believes in the power of self-determination and of individual liberty, I believe the 4 million American citizens in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico should be able to voice their opinions about Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States, although the ultimate determination of that fate rests with this Congress, and I am pleased to stand in a long line of Republicans who have taken that view. Every Republican President for the last 50 years has been committed to self-determination and democracy for the American citizens in Puerto Rico.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan said, “Puerto Ricans have borne the responsibilities of U.S. citizenship with honor and courage for more than 64 years. They have fought beside us for decades and have worked beside us for generations.” He also added Puerto Rico’s “strong tradition of democracy provides leadership and stability” in the Caribbean. I agree.

If the American citizens of Puerto Rico choose independence, I will support that vote. If the American citizens of Puerto Rico choose statehood, I will support that vote. I am equally confident that this Congress will be able to resolve any difficult issues about taxation, obligations of individuals and, most importantly, about the need for English to be the official language prior to any offering of citizenship to that territory.

The American citizens of Puerto Rico have fought, have bled, and have died in our military, on virtually every continent, in order to spread democracy and the right of self-determination. It seems to me it would be the height of hypocrisy for this Congress to deny the very same rights for which Americans have fought all over this world to the American citizens of Puerto Rico.

I know this is a difficult and a contentious debate, and I hold in the highest regard my colleagues who take a different view; but for me, for President Ronald Reagan, and for all freedom-loving Americans, I believe with all of my heart the time has come to adopt the Puerto Rico Democracy Act and to begin the process of allowing the American citizens of Puerto Rico to determine what will be their destiny, and we will determine it as well.

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), House Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3037. I grew up in New York. I don’t live in Puerto Rico, but I know one thing for a fact, not an opinion, which is that Puerto Ricans, from the age of about 10 or 12, know the status issue, discuss the status issue, and debate the status issue on a daily basis. It is the number one concern on the island.

Some in Congress have asked, why don’t they do it on their own?  Because, when they have done it on their own, we have ignored it.

Then there is another reason, one that may offend people if you don’t present it properly: Puerto Rico did not invade the United States. The United States invaded Puerto Rico in 1898, and it has held it. According to the Constitution, it is up to the United States Congress to dispose of, if you will, the territory or to adjust the territorial status. If we tell them to do whatever they please, we will ignore what they do. If we tell them to do something, then it will be part of a process–again, that word “process.” So it is our responsibility to tell them to hold this vote.

So my point is that this bill does not end the process. With all due respect to my colleagues on both sides who oppose the bill, do you honestly believe that Congress would give anybody statehood just based on the first simple vote? I can assure you that, if statehood is ever to come to Puerto Rico, there will be a vote to accept the results of Puerto Rico’s vote. There will be a vote to grant statehood to Puerto Rico. Then there will be a vote asking the Puerto Ricans “yes” or “no” if they accept statehood. It is just not going to happen. The process will take years. We are not doing what people think we are doing.

What we are doing is being honest to the comments we make on a daily basis, which are that we go overseas to fight for freedom and independence, for the ability to be free people and to make free choices. Yet we’re going to say today that we won’t allow 4 million American citizens to simply advise us on this choice? That is a mistake. That truly is un-American.

Rep. Dan Lungren (D-CA), House Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3037. It is absolutely historically factual that Congress decides under what terms a new State will be formed, when and if we will accept a new State.

Rep. Gregorio Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands), House Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3038.We are trying to give people free will and freedom.…Let’s put the question to the people of Puerto Rico. Give them an option.

Rep. Cantor (R-VA), Republican Whip, House Floor Debate on H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, April 29, 2010, Congressional record, page H3039 Ronald Reagan was motivated to support possible statehood for Puerto Rico in part because our communist enemies were at the time exploiting Puerto Rico’s status to sow unrest in Latin America by calling for an end to “Yankee imperialism.” While the Soviet Union may no longer be with us, Hugo Chavez is attempting to sow the same unrest, calling for an end to U.S. imperialism in Puerto Rico.

Reagan said back in 1980 that we must be ready to demonstrate that “the American idea can work in Puerto Rico.” Over the past 2 years, my friend, Governor Luis Fortuño, has worked to do just that. The Governor and others are actively working to increase economic opportunity by reducing the burden the government places on the people, introducing competition and choice to education, lowering taxes, restoring law and order, and defending traditional values.

Listening to these achievements, I am reminded that the great experiment begun by our Founding Fathers is not in its last days, but instead is being constantly renewed as we work to expand what it means to live in a land of opportunity.

Our best export has always been our ideas. And first and foremost amongst those ideas is the promise that limited government based on the consent of the governed that respects the inalienable rights granted by God is the best hope for mankind on Earth. These ideas have also served as a magnet drawing all those who wish for a better life to our shores.

The citizens of Puerto Rico share in this American inheritance. They share in our values and in their belief in the American Dream. The citizens of Puerto Rico deserve the opportunity to speak to their aspirations for the future in a sanctioned plebiscite.

Congressional Research Service, Political Status of Puerto Rico:  Options for Congress, May 29, 2008, pp. 20, 25.  Although the process for resolving the political status question varies, one element remains common throughout the nation’s history — Congress exercises an essential role in the process and resolves (or decides not to resolve) the question.

The history of debate, particularly the 1998 plebiscite, indicates that in the absence of constitutionally valid status options and definitions acceptable to Congress, the debate over status yields few or no conclusive results.

Committee on Natural Resources Report, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2007 (H.R. 900), Report No. 110-597, April 22, 2008, pp. 5,9 and 11.  Since the mid-1970’s. . . the Puerto Rican economy has stagnated and fallen well behind that of the nation as a whole.  In 1984, Hernandez Colon was re-elected as Governor on the pledge to focus his attention on the economy rather than status.  The [Natural Resources] Committee was asked to conduct hearings on the state of the Puerto Rican economy.  These hearings made it plain that economic solutions on the Island are largely tied to political solutions. Read more

Representative Jose Serrano (D-NY), Statement, House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs Legislative Hearing, March 22, 2007, p. 15.  I will not rest until the colony is gone.  It served a purpose for a long time perhaps, and I give credit to those who took it from where it was to where it is.  But it was never the intention of the founders of the commonwealth to keep it as a permanent condition, and it is a condition.  So I find myself today in a unique situation, a situation similar or identical to what [Representative] Nydia [Velasquez (D-NY)] finds herself in.  We were both born in the colony, and now we serve in the Congress of the power that holds the colony.  As a Puerto Rican, I don’t want my birthplace to be a colony.  As an American Congressman, I think it is indecent that my country has colonies in 2007.  And this must end.

Representative Don Young (R-AK), Statement, House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs Legislative Hearing, March 22, 2007, p. 55.  [M]y goal here is to really try to allow Puerto Rico to advance.  And I do not believe you can advance as a commonwealth.  I say that from my heart.  Because we [Alaska] were not able to advance as a commonwealth.  We were a territory.  And my goal is to listen to the Puerto Rican people, listen to witnesses like we have today.  But my ultimate goal is to try to give the Puerto Rican people a choice.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, Opening Statement, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs Legislative Hearing, March 22, 2007, p. 10.  In going back to the 1970s, at least 40 separate measures have been introduced in Congress to resolve or clarify Puerto Rico’s political status.  In addition, Congress has held at least 10 hearings, and four measures have received either House or Senate action. Read more

Chairwoman Donna M. Christensen (D-VI), Opening Statement, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs Legislative Hearing, March 22, 2007, p.2.  [A]bove any support for one bill over the other, I support the right of the people of Puerto Rico to be fully informed, to have a fair process, and to have all of the possible status options clearly and accurately defined and placed before them.

Congressman Jerry Weller (R-IL), Statement, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs Legislative Hearing, March 22, 2007, p. 16.  I don’t think the political and economic arguments are as important as the moral and constitutional issues.  The territorial clause in Article IV of the Constitution was never intended to result in a century of territorial status for what is now close to four million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.  How can four million U.S. citizens be represented by one non-voting member of the House?

Senator Mel Martinez (D-FL), Statement before the Senate Energy Committee, November 15, 2006, p. 4.  Although Congress has been active on this issue, it has not taken the necessary steps to resolve Puerto Rico’s status.  As a result, some U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico have created a number of unconventional status ideologies and doctrines that combine features of statehood, territorial status and independence.  The ideologies and doctrines may be ill-advised or even legally flawed in some respect but they are a direct result of U.S. citizens simply trying to fill the void left by the U.S. Congress.  These doctrines, which now complicate the issue of Puerto Rico’s status, most likely would not have been created had Congress not overlooked its responsibility for a territorial status resolution.  I mention this not to chastise previous Congresses but to urge my colleagues to take this matter up in an expeditious fashion, to address it fully and to resolve it finally.  As I said earlier, this is long overdue and the people of Puerto Rico deserve their say.

Representative Robert Underwood (D-GU), Statement before the House Natural Resources Committee, October 4, 2000, p. 32.  If we do not have a Congressional process for self-determination, then we are not going to have a real process for self-determination.  This is not a best two-out-of-three elections.  It has to be viewed as a single process and what we have to date [is] several election results.  I keep thinking that people think that we will keep having these elections until we get the result we want and then we will stop.  That is not the way this is supposed to work.  It is supposed to be a Congressionally mandated responsibility that is consistent with the international understanding of that.

Chairmen Don Young (R-AK, Resources Committee), Ben Gilman (R-NY, International Relations Committee), Elton Gallegly (R-CA, Subcommittee on Native American and Insular Affairs) and Dan Burton (R-IN, Western Hemisphere Subcommittee), letter to Hon. Charlie Rodriguez, President, Senate of Puerto Rico and Honorable Edison Misla-Aldarondo, Speaker, Puerto Rico House of Representatives, April 5, 2000, as printed in the Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report, Political Status of Puerto Rico: Options for Congress, May 29, 2008, p. 13.  [A]fter almost fifty years of local constitutional government in Puerto Rico by U.S. citizens, now the lack of majority consent to the current form of internal self-government by those who are disenfranchised nationally, calls into question the continued acceptability of the status quo.  This problem cannot be unilaterally resolved by the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico acting under the local constitution, but rather, by working with the federal government which has the sole power, as well as a duty, to change Puerto Rico’s political status into one of full enfranchisement.

The Results of the 1998 Puerto Rico Plebiscite, Report by Chairman Don Young (R-AK) and Ranking Democratic Member George Miller (D-CA), Committee on Resources, Serial No. 106-A, November 19, 1999, pp. 6-7.   [T]he Committee concludes that the true will of the voters in Puerto Rico regarding their ultimate political status can only be ascertained through further self-determination in the future.

Both the 1993 vote which led to Puerto Rico’s petition for congressional sponsorship of a status referendum in 1994, as well as the 1998 vote, confirm that validity and soundness of the Committee on Resources’ recommendation in 1996, and again in 1997, that Congress by federal statute enable Puerto Rico to implement a structured process of self-determination based on constitutionally valid options Congress is willing to consider.  Such a structured process of self-determination will enable Congress and the voters in Puerto Rico to make informed decisions with respect to status resolution.

Congress retains the plenary authority under article IV, section 3, clause 2 of the United States Constitution to determine the ultimate disposition of the political status of Puerto Rico and the United States citizens residing therein.  Congress must fulfill its moral and legal responsibility toward self-determination and authorize a structured process of status resolution for Puerto Rico.

Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), Statement before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, May 6, 1999.  I’d like to ask you [Governor Rosselló] how do the young men and women of Puerto Rico feel about a system in which a government can compel them to possibly give their lives defending a country and yet they have no right to vote for that government or the representatives that might possibly send them to war.

I recall from my years as Governor dealing with my own State legislature, and they’re good people and we all did the best we could to try and resolve the issues that faced my State, but sometimes there was division, sometimes there was difference of opinion. My understanding under our Constitutional system is that for issues of this importance, explicitly in this case in the Constitution, while we do have a Federal system and there is allocation of responsibilities between the Federal and the State level, the ultimate responsibility, with your help and cooperation, the ultimate responsibility does rest with the Federal Government in this case.

S. Res. 279 (105th Congress), passed by unanimous consent on September 17, 1998.  Whereas since 1952, Puerto Rico has exercised local self-government under the sovereignty of the United States and subject to the provisions of the Constitution of the United States and other Federal laws applicable to Puerto Rico; . . . and Whereas the political status of Puerto Rico can be determined only by the Congress of the United States:  Now, therefore, be it Resolved, It is the sense of the Senate that – (1) the Senate supports and recognizes the right of the United States citizens residing in Puerto Rico to express democratically their views regarding their future political status through a referendum or other public forum, and to communicate those views to the President and Congress; and (2) the Federal Government should review any such communication.

Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), Senate Floor consideration of S. Res. 279, September 17, 1998, Congressional Record, pp. S10501-2.  The destiny of Puerto Rico’s political future should be in the hands of the people of Puerto Rico.  Congress should pass legislation that provides the congressional framework to recognize and implement their decision.

Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), Senate Floor consideration of S. Res. 279, September 17, 1998, Congressional Record, p. S10502Every one of those 4 million people in Puerto Rico is a citizen of the United States of America. These are fellow citizens who have never been afforded the opportunity for a clear congressionally sanctioned expression of their opinion as to what their political future should be.  The nearly 4 million U.S. citizens who reside in Puerto Rico are entitled to that opportunity.

Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Senate Floor consideration of S. Res. 279, September 17, 1998, Congressional Record, p. S10502.  Since any act of self-determination in Puerto Rico is not self-executing, the resolution of Puerto Rico’s political status is a Federal matter that can only be fully and finally determined by an act of Congress[.]

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senate Floor consideration of S. Res. 279, September 17, 1998, Congressional Record, p. S10505.  These are our fellow citizens.  They have to make this determination.  Of course, we should give them that right.

Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Senate Floor consideration of S. Res. 279, September 17, 1998, Congressional Record, p. S10506-07.  Congress has created a series of obstacles to the achievement of any change in political status. I think we owe our follow citizens an explanation of what the process is likely to be to overcome those obstacles so that they can express their desires with a clear understanding of the process that lies before them. . . . I believe that we still owe our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico a fair statement of the alternatives and process involved in future political status so that they can express their desires in a meaningful way.

The United States-Puerto-Rico Political Status Act (HR 856), as passed by the House of Representatives on March 4, 1998.  Findings: (12) Under the Territorial Clause of the Constitution, Congress has the authority and responsibility to determine Federal policy and clarify status issues in order to resolve the issue of Puerto Rico’s final status.

Representative Joe Moakley (D-MA), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, Congressional Record, p. H765.  [T]he issue of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico has been an issue for many, many decades.

Mr. Speaker, eight years ago I was an original cosponsor of the legislation which passed the House to allow Puerto Ricans to vote on the status of their relationship with this country.  Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, that bill died in the Senate, but it did have the support of the majority of this House.

President Clinton supports the legislation, as did every Republican President since Dwight Eisenhower.  Mr. Speaker, it is a good idea whose time is long overdue.  After 83 years of American citizenship, this country owes these people the right to make their own decision.  We owe them self-determination.  They are American citizens, Mr. Speaker, and they should be treated as such.

Representative Jose Serrano (D-NY), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, Congressional Record, p. H766.  [This] bill puts forth the process for ending the colonial status [of Puerto Rico.]  What this Congress is saying is, we will allow you in consultation with us to take a vote, and then the results of that vote will become our consideration here on the House floor. . . . [T]he U.N. has suggested that all countries unload their territories and colonies before 2000.  The greatest democracy on Earth still holds close to 4 million people in that kind of a situation. . . . It is good for the U.S. Government to change this.

Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), House Floor Debate on H.R. 856, United States- Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, Congressional Record, p. H770.  [Previous] plebiscites were not sanctioned by the United States Congress.  And because they were not sanctioned by the United States Congress, they have no meaning.  Why?  Because, once again, Puerto Rico is under the territorial clause of the United States Constitution meaning until they become a State or until they become an independent nation, they cannot choose for themselves. . . .We have to vote on a bill to allow the people of Puerto Rico the right to make a choice. . . .  [T]his is simply about giving the congressional authority to the people of Puerto Rico so they can make up their own mind[.]

Representative Don Young (R-AK), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, Congressional Record, p. H774.  We should go forth and show the people of America, show the people of Puerto Rico, that our hearts are true, so that the rest of the world will follow the example of the great United States and free their territories and free the people so they can have self-determination.

Representative George Miller (D-CA), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States- Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, Congressional Record, p. H774.  [T]he Committee on Resources of the House of Representatives had an obligation to report to this floor a fair and accurate plan for the citizens of Puerto Rico to choose their status.  I believe that this committee has met that obligation. . . .Our obligation was to see that when this process went forward to the people of Puerto Rico, that it was a fair process, that it was an accurate process.  We had an earlier plebiscite where the parties wrote their own definitions and the people voted, and the Congress has done nothing because the Congress knew in fact those definitions, whether they were of statehood or of commonwealth, were, in fact, not accurate and would not be supportive by the Congress of the United States and did not reflect the laws and the Constitution of this country.

Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States- Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, Congressional Record, p. H781.  Mr. Chairman, there is no right more fundamental to our democracy than the right of people to decide their political future. American democracy was conceived in the great struggle of the Revolutionary War, and it originated out of a fight for self-determination by the American colonists to be able to control their own affairs.

We have long asserted this right, not only for Americans, but for people all over the world. We have insisted that this is a universal human right that every human being should enjoy. So certainly it should and must be a fundamental right for people living under the American flag as American citizens. Yet almost 4 million American citizens, the people of Puerto Rico, have not enjoyed this right.

We have the opportunity to ensure today that American citizens who have sacrificed their loved ones in our wars, who serve our country in and out of uniform, and who obey our laws, should have a say in their political future. The people of Puerto Rico deserve an opportunity to vote on their future political status, and this bill simply gives them that opportunity. The choice should be theirs, and this Congress should respect that outcome.

Representative Robert Underwood (D-GU), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, Congressional Record, p. H781.  [This legislation] is significant because it establishes Federal responsibility in a process of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico that would lead to decolonization. . . . The bill before us clearly states that the Federal Government has the responsibility to act within a specific time frame and in unequivocal terms so that the process itself does not lead to more frustration and uncertainty.  The Federal responsibility must be consistent with a modern 21st century understanding of decolonization, and it must lead to a process which forces expeditious action.

Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, Congressional Record, pp. H781-82.   Since 1985 I have served on the Helsinki Commission, which was charged since 1976 to oversee the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act. Within that act it said that the international community ought to respect the self-determination of peoples.

It is one of the most troubling issues that confronts the international community and the emerging democracies around the world. . . . Always, always, always the United States is on the side of those who aspire to make their own decisions. On this floor we have heard some very articulate expressions on both sides of this issue, from people who know the politics of Puerto Rico far more than I.  But I know that those articulate people will debate this issue vigorously, and it will be the people of Puerto Rico who make this decision, as it should be. But it is important that this Congress express at home, within our own Nation, that same conviction on behalf of self-determination that we express around the world.

Representative Al Wynn (D-MD), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, page H782. Mr. Chairman, the essence of the bill before us today is to allow the people of Puerto Rico to make the decisions about their own destiny, what we like to refer to as self-determination.

For the last few decades we have talked long and often hard about the importance of self-determination in all parts of the world: in Russia, in Cuba, around the globe. It is now time to talk about self-determination for one of our nearest neighbors.

The point is that today Puerto Ricans can fight in our wars but cannot elect the Commander in Chief. They can contribute to Social Security, and they do, but they cannot receive Social Security benefits. We need to change this, and we need to use our time-honored democratic processes to do that.

Representative Peter Deutsch (D-FL), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, page H783.  Only when people understand the real options can there be informed self-determination, and only when there has been informed self-determination can Congress then decide what status is in the national interest.  Then the status of Puerto Rico can be resolved if there is agreement on the terms for status change.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, page H785.  Above all, we cannot get ahead of the Puerto Rican people. In 1993, we in the District of Columbia had a historic vote on statehood. That is not what this vote is about. It is about allowing the Puerto Rican people to decide what affiliation they themselves desire. This is what we say we want people around the world to decide.

We in the District feel a deep kinship [with] demands for self-determination around the world, and especially self-determination among our own in Puerto Rico.

Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, page H785.  Mr. Chairman, as we debate this, there are 20,000 Puerto Ricans serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. In this century, 200,000 have taken the pledge to defend our country. As recently as the Vietnam war, almost as many Puerto Ricans as Mississippians gave their lives for our country. And as recently as the Gulf War, when American casualties were miraculously low, four Puerto Ricans died for the United States of America.

Mr. Chairman, if that is not the price to pay for the privilege of deciding whether or not they want to be a State, then what is? They have paid the price. They deserve the right to make that decision.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Floor  Debate on H.R. 856, United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act, March 4, 1998, page H786.  To me this is a question of equity and fairness. There are nearly 4 million Puerto Ricans who are American citizens who are denied the right to self-determination.

We will be able to find out from this process what Puerto Ricans want. We can then respond to that process. This is only fair. The people of Puerto Rico did not ask to be a part of this country 100 years ago, remember. They became a part by the Spanish-American War, and as was pointed out, they have been loyal citizens. They have the same right to self-determination as all Americans do.

Committee on Resources Report on the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act (HR 856), June 12, 1997, Report Number 105-131, Part 1, pp. 10-12, 20-21, and 25.  For as long as unincorporated territory status continues, the extent to which rights under the U.S. Constitution apply to actions of the U.S. government in Puerto Rico will continue to be defined by Congress consistent with relevant decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

At this time no one expects the U.S. Congress to act arbitrarily or unilaterally with respect to status for Puerto Rico.  However, an informed self-determination process requires that Congress and the people of Puerto Rico understand that current policy and statutory provisions may change in time, while fundamental Constitutional powers do not.  It is impossible to predict what conditions will develop in the future or what measures Congress would determine necessary to promote the national interest if the status of Puerto Rico remains subject to the discretion of Congress under the Territorial Clause.

Puerto Rico cannot unilaterally determine its ultimate status within a political framework to which the U.S. also is to be a party in agreement[.]

The decision of a majority of the voters not to ratify the current status calls into question the legitimacy of the policy espoused by many in Congress and the Executive Branch to the effect that political leaders in the Federal Government simply should “remain neutral” and support the right of the people to choose their own status.  That policy, which constitutes failure of the Federal Government adequately to inform the people of the territory as to what status options the U.S. is willing to consider, effectively deprives the residents of the territory of an opportunity for meaningful self-determination.

Congress must create a process that defines real status options under which the people of Puerto Rico will have real rights that are enforceable.

Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), Committee on Resources Testimony, March 19, 1997, p. 19.  The status quo in Puerto Rico cannot be maintained.  The people of Puerto Rico have lived for far too long under a colonial status with second-class citizenship.

It has been argued that the plebiscite in 1993 decided the issue – the Commonwealth option won by a narrow plurality.  Unfortunately, the proponents of each of the different options promised the voters benefits that they simply can’t deliver under U.S. law and the U.S. Constitution.  For example, the advocates of independence wrote on the ballot that all citizens of an independent Puerto Rico would be granted dual citizenship with the United States.  This simply isn’t true.  That is a decision Congress must make, and Congress isn’t likely to grant blanket dual citizenship.

In addition, advocates of continuing the Commonwealth status argued that Puerto Rican residents would enjoy first class, “Constitutional citizenship” and generous Federal benefits, without paying federal taxes, that Congress could never alter.  They promised that Puerto Rico would have veto power over any law Congress passed which affects Puerto Rico.  Again this is not true.  The citizenship that Puerto Ricans enjoy is not Constitutional – it was created by congress and can be altered by congress.  The same is true of every Federal program in which Puerto Rico participates.

As you can see, the advocates of some of these options were promising people the moon.  Clearly, Congress needs to step in to create a fair process based on legally valid definitions of the three options.

Representative Jose Serrano (D-NY), Statement, Committee on Resources, March 19, 1997, p. 80.  [A]ny time a system of relationships allows me to run for Congress but doesn’t allow my American citizen cousins in Mayaguez to run for Congress, that is not a fair relationship.  I shouldn’t see that on the ballot.  Any time a system allows me to institute agreements with foreign countries but doesn’t allow you the sovereignty to institute agreements with foreign countries, meaning you are not a State, and you are also not independent, then I can’t see that as a fair relationship.

Committee on Resources Chairman Don Young and Ranking Member George Miller, Letter to Leaders of Each Political Party in Puerto Rico, February 27, 1997.  There is no purpose in presenting to the people of Puerto Rico a status definition which does not represent an option that the Congress will be willing to ratify should it be approved in a plebiscite.

Chairman Don Young (R-AK), Committee on Resources Press Release, February 26, 1997.  The United States Congress and the President have a moral obligation to act so the people of Puerto Rico can finally resolve their status.

This is what the people of this nation, including our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico, deserve from the 105th Congress, and in my view that is what the national interest requires us to do.

After 400 years of colonial rule by Spain, it should not have taken the United States almost 100 years to define the options for full and permanent self-government for Puerto Rico.

Committee on Resources Oversight Plan for the 105th Congress, Adopted February 5, 1997.  The Puerto Rico Legislature, representing 3.8 million U.S. citizens in this American territory in the Caribbean, has requested the 105th Congress authorize a process to resolve their political status problem.  Puerto Rico has successfully demonstrated the ability to operate under a local constitutional government first authorized and then conditionally approved by the Congress in 1950 and 1952, respectively.  However, in spite of the decades of democratic changes of a republican form of local constitutional government under the U.S. Constitution, Puerto Rico has yet to achieve a permanent form of full-self-government.  Puerto Rico held a referendum in 1993 with locally defined status options in which an enhanced “commonwealth” received a plurality of 48 percent, statehood 46 percent, and independence 4 percent.  The Committee on Resources considered and overwhelmingly rejected on a bipartisan basis the enhanced “commonwealth” ballot definition as unconstitutional and fiscally and politically inviable.  The Puerto Rico Legislature’s request makes it clear that permanent disenfranchisement is unacceptable, and that the U.S. must define the political status options of a final relationship of dignity to both parties.

Chairman Don Young (R-AK) letter to President William Jefferson Clinton, December 11, 1996.  [H]istory demonstrates that more than any other factor the degree of consultation and coordination between the Executive Branch and Congress on status measures within the scope of the territorial clause makes the difference between getting it done right, getting it done the hard way, or not getting it done at all.

For example, the last time a President of the United States transmitted to Congress a major new territorial status proposal it was the free association agreement for the Pacific islands trust territory in 1984.  The primary criticism of the Reagan Administration by leaders in Congress at the time – including me – was inadequate consultation with Congress before commitments were made by Executive Branch negotiators on behalf of the Federal government.

After more than twenty hearings before five committees in Congress and years of truly tortuous debate, the framework political status legislation for the Pacific trust territories was approved.  More than thirty five pages of statutory amendments and reservations were added by Congress to the status agreements.  The entire process was gratuitously destructive in many respects, due in part to provisions agreed to by the Federal negotiators without consulting Congress.  The people of the islands and the Federal government paid a high price for doing it the hard way, and it almost didn’t get done at all.

Representative Don Young (R-AK), House Floor  Remarks, March 6, 1996, Congressional Record, p. E299.  Locally conducted plebiscites have been inconclusive, and were unduly influenced by vested interests exploiting the status quo.  It is time for the U.S. Congress to meet its responsibility under the Constitution to provide for a self-determination procedure in which the U.S. national interest in resolving the status issue is taken into account, rather than allowing the issue to be dominated by local political rivalries and interference from those who thrive opportunistically on the present territorial status.   The United States also has a right of self-determination and this process requires action by both the United States and Puerto Rico in order to advance toward a full self-government relationship.

Chairmen Don Young (R-AK, Resources Committee), Elton Gallegly (R-CA, Native American and Insular Affairs Subcommittee), Ben Gilman (R-NY, International Relations Committee), and Dan Burton (R-IN, Western Hemisphere Subcommittee) letter  to The Honorable Roberto Rexach-Benitez, President of the Puerto Rican Senate and The Honorable Zaida Hernandez-Torres, Speaker of the Puerto Rican House, February 29, 1996.  [T]here is a need for Congress to define the real options for change and the true legal and political nature of the status quo, so that the people can know what the actual choices will be in the future.

In our view, promoting the goal of full self-government for the people of Puerto Rico, rather than remaining in a separate and unequal status, is in the best interests of the United States.  This is particularly true due to the large population of Puerto Rico, the approach of a new century in which a protracted status debate will interfere with Puerto Rico’s economic and social development, and the domestic and international interest in determining a path to full self-government for all territories with a colonial history before the end of this century.

Ultimately, Congress alone can determine Federal policy with respect to self-government and self-determination for the residents of Puerto Rico.  It will not be possible for the local government or the people to advance further in the self-determination process until the U.S. Congress meets its moral and governmental responsibility to clarify Federal requirements regarding termination of the present unincorporated territory status of Puerto Rico in favor of one of the options for full self-government.

Letter from Representatives Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), Lee Hamilton (D-IN), Bill Richardson (D-NM) and Dan Kildee (D-MI) to Senator Charlie Rodriquez, Majority Leader, Puerto Rico Senate, June 28, 1996.  Since Congress has neither approved nor resolved the 1993 plebiscite results, we are in favor of legislation that will establish a future process of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico.  This legislation should include a requirement for status plebiscites to take place within a certain number of years and define various status options in a realistic manner.  In two years, Puerto Rico will celebrate its 100th year as part of the United States.  Congress has both a political and moral responsibility to ensure that the 3.5 million Americans living in Puerto Rico have a right to express their views on the important issue of political status on a regular basis.

Senator Paul Simon (D-IL), Senate Floor Statement upon the Introduction of S. Con. Res. 75, Relating to the Commonwealth Option in Puerto Rico, September 30, 1994.  In light of the continued uncertainty regarding the Puerto Rican plebiscite and what it means for the future, it is incumbent on the U.S. Congress to heed the call of the Puerto Rican Legislature and express its opinion regarding the viability of the commonwealth plebiscite formula. If, as I believe, this formula was neither politically, economically, nor constitutionally viable, the people of Puerto Rico must be given this signal, so that they may promptly choose a path of association that is both realistic and consistent with constitutional principles.

While it is unfortunate that the voters of Puerto Rico faced inflated and unrealistic expectations in the November 14, 1993 plebiscite, the Congress of the United States can now set the record straight, so that Puerto Rico may continue without undue delay to find a viable constitutional option to its current self-governing, unincorporated territorial status.

Representative Don Young (R-AL), House Floor Statement upon the Introduction of H. Con. Res. 300, Expressing the Sense of Congress Regarding the Commonwealth Option Presented in the Puerto Rican Plebiscite, Friday, Sept. 30, 1994.  It is essential to a meaningful self-determination process for the United States House and Senate to provide the people of Puerto Rico a sense of the Congress concerning the viability of the elements of the commonwealth formula proposed in the November 14, 1993 plebiscite. . . . It is unfortunate that the voters have faced unrealistic and inflated expectations of a supposed commonwealth relationship with the United States. However, this has become an opportunity to set the record straight; to quell the commonwealth fantasy status which continues to be promoted to the detriment of the society it is purported to help.

Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), Statement before the Senate Energy Committee, January 30, 1991, p. 104  [W]e owe it to the people of Puerto Rico to be clear on our intentions.  We ought not to go through an exercise in which anything is possible and anything might happen.  We ought to be clear about what the results of the decisions will be.

Senator James A. McClure (R-ID), Statement before the Senate Energy Committee, July 13, 1989, p. 226.  [I]f we are to really give the people of Puerto Rico a choice, a genuine choice that we are ready to execute, then it seems to me that we have to spell out the details on all three options.

 

Legal Scholars

The Honorable Juan R. Torruella, United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, “The Insular Cases:  The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid,” University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, Winter, 2007, vol. 29, p. 346.  By its repeated decisions upholding the Insular Cases and their progeny, the Supreme Court has created what amounts to a political ghetto in the territories, from which there is no escape or solution by its inhabitants because they lack the political power to influence the political institutions that can make the necessary changes to this situation.  Puerto Rico’s U.S. citizens have no effective way of exercising the political pressure that is normally available to U.S. citizens residing in the States on the political branches of the national government, where all the fundamental decisions affecting Puerto Rico are made.  Thus, the judicial posture commonly expounded, to the effect that these are issues that must be resolved through political means, is flawed ab initio because, in the case of the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, no effective political means exist to correct their colonial condition.  The claim of “political question” in the case of Puerto Rico is a flagrant subterfuge to avoid taking the action that has been sanctioned by the Supreme Court as appropriate when extreme circumstances are presented of a pervasive deficit in the democratic processes:  when courts are faced with a refusal of the political branches to correct the abuses against a discrete group of citizens that is completely under the sovereignty of the United States, the courts are required to act to correct those abuses. (Citing U.S. v. Carolene Prods. Col, 304 U.S. 144, 153 n. 4 (1938)(“Prejudice against discrete and insular minorities may be a special condition, which tends seriously to curtail the operation of those political processes ordinarily to be relied upon to protect minorities, and which may call for a correspondingly more searching judicial inquiry.”)

Over one hundred years of denigrating colonial status should be sufficient evidence of the need for judicial action.  The Supreme Court, as it did with Plessy, must step forward to correct the wrong it created by sanctioning the Insular Cases and their progeny.  The continued vitality of these cases represents a constitutional antediluvian anachronism that has created a de jure and de facto condition of political apartheid for the U.S. citizens that reside in Puerto Rico and the other territories.

Thomas C. Goldstein, Esq., Lecturer on Supreme Court Litigation at Harvard and Stanford Law Schools, and Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, March 22, 2007, pp. 4 and 8.  [T]he power to resolve the political status of Puerto Rico is vested exclusively in Congress and the local constitutional process must operate within any framework created by Congress. . . . The Supreme Court’s ruling in Harris v. Rosario…confirms the wide ranging power of Congress under the Territorial Clause to alter its treatment of Puerto Rico.

Congress now presides over Puerto Rico as an annexed but unincorporated territory.  Currently, the people of Puerto Rico lack full and equal national citizenship and they lack a status resolution process through which they can acquire full and equal national citizenship.  Congress possesses the exclusive constitutional power to determine the appropriate status resolution.  Moreover, it is imperative that Congress exercise this power in a fashion that is compatible with the options made available by the Constitution.

 

State Executives

Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) Proclamation, March 1, 2004.  Whereas, the territory of New Mexico was also acquired by the United States as a result of armed conflict, and New Mexicans endured eighty-four years as a territory before realizing their aspirations for permanent political status; and New Mexico’s great history, including its ascension to statehood, is intertwined with our state’s Hispanic heritage; Now Therefore I, Bill Richardson, Governor of the State of New Mexico, by virtue of the authority vested in the Governor, do hereby proclaim that the Government of New Mexico fully supports the call of the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico for federal legislation that will define the non-territorial status options available to them, authorize a referendum in Puerto Rico that will enable them to decide on a permanent status, and assure that their status decision will be implemented by the federal government.  Furthermore, I join the Legislature of New Mexico in requesting the New Mexico congressional delegation to actively promote and support timely action by the President and Congress of the United States on this important national issue.

National Governors’ Association Policy:  Political Self-Determination for Puerto Rico; Winter Meeting, 1997.  Most Governors represent constituencies that include American citizens of Puerto Rican descent. . . . It is essential that the final, permanent political status of Puerto Rico be democratically selected by the American citizens who reside there on options ranging from U.S. statehood to sovereign independence.  An absolute majority of Puerto Rico’s voters supported a platform seeking Congressional sponsorship of a political status plebiscite for Puerto Rico.  Responsibility for making “all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States” is vested in the United States Congress by Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution.  Therefore, in harmony with its long-standing acknowledgement of the importance of self-determination by the people of Puerto Rico as to the status of Puerto Rico, the National Governors’ Association urges the 105th United States Congress to enact legislation that will – no later than the 1998 centennial of the United States sovereignty over Puerto Rico – provide a mechanism for political self-determination by the American citizens who reside in Puerto Rico.

 

State Legislatures

California Senate Joint Resolution No. 21,  July 2001.  [T]he legislature of the State of California and the California Latino Legislative Caucus request that the Congress and the President of the United States enact legislation that would define the political status options available to the United States citizens of Puerto Rico and authorize a plebiscite to provide an opportunity for Puerto Ricans to make an informed decision regarding the island’s future political status; and be it further Resolved, That the Legislature of the State of California and the California Latino Legislative Caucus request the California congressional delegation to actively promote and support timely action on this important national issue.

Florida Senate Memorial No. 1360,  2003.  [T]he Congress of the United States is urged to act without further delay on Puerto  Rico’s pending petition by promptly enacting legislation establishing and defining the political status and electoral rights of citizens of Puerto Rico, and authorizing a plebiscite to provide an opportunity for such citizens to make an informed decision on the future political status of Puerto Rico.

New Mexico Legislature, Senate Joint Memorial No. 34,  2004.  Whereas, the New Mexico senate and house of representatives urge all New Mexicans and citizens of the United States to support the enactment of a federal law leading to full self-government for Puerto Rico; Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by the Legislature of the State of New Mexico that congress be requested to enact and the president be requested to sign legislation that would define the political status options available to the United States citizens of Puerto Rico and authorize a plebiscite to provide an opportunity for Puerto Ricans to make an informed decision regarding their future political status[.]

New York State Assembly, Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, Letter to Chairman Dan Burton, House Committee on Government Reform, September 20, 1999.  We hereby petition the Committee on Government Reform to hold hearings on the unsettled issue of the political status of Puerto Rico.  We believe that your present hearings on the President’s clemency toward the Puerto Rican political prisoners focuses on the symptom, rather than the fundamental problem that this Congress has failed to address – the ultimate political status of Puerto Rico.

Texas House Concurrent Resolution No. 199,  2003 Resolved, That the 78th Legislature of the States of Texas request that the Congress and President of the United States enact legislation that would define the political status options available to the United States citizens of Puerto Rico and authorize a plebiscite to provide an opportunity for Puerto Ricans to make an informed decision regarding the island’s future political status.

Wisconsin General Assembly Resolution No. 46,  November 2001.  Whereas, Puerto Rico has held 2 nonbinding referendums since 1993, and the most recent one indicated that only 0.06% of the population are satisfied with the status quo of being a territorial commonwealth, confirming that there is no longer the consent of the governed for the existing territorial status; and Whereas, the experience of the people of Wisconsin in resolving their own territorial status in 1848, after 65 years as a territory, makes them sympathetic to the aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico to resolve their own political status; now, therefore, be it Resolved by the assembly, That the members of the Wisconsin assembly request that the U.S. Congress and the President of the United States enact legislation that would define the political status options available to the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico and authorize a plebiscite to provide for Puerto Ricans to make an informed decision regarding the island’s future political status; and, be it further Resolved, That members of the Wisconsin assembly request the Wisconsin congressional delegation to actively promote and support timely action on this important national issue.

 

City Council and County Resolutions

Austin, Texas City Council,  January 15, 1998.  Whereas, as we approach a new millennium, we recognize that the time has come for Puerto Rico to have the opportunity to express itself regarding its desire to attain full self-government within the context of a Congressionally mandated plebiscite, Now, Therefore, be it Resolved by the City Council of the City of Austin: That the City of Austin requests that the United States Congress consider and schedule a Congressional vote on H.R. 856, the “United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act,” that would provide the people of Puerto Rico the opportunity to choose their future political status.

Oakland, California City Council,  September 28, 1999.  Whereas, the Oakland City Council recognizes that the time has come for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico to have the opportunity to express themselves regarding their desire to attain full self-government within the context of a Congressionally authorized plebiscite; now therefore, be it Resolved: That the Oakland City Council requests the U.S. Congress to pass, and the President to sign into law, legislation defining the political status options and authorize a plebiscite for U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to make an informed decision regarding the island’s future political status.

San Francisco, California, City and County, 1999.  Whereas, In 1997, the Legislature of Puerto Rico formally petitioned the U.S. Congress government to respond to the democratic aspirations of the American citizens of Puerto Rico by means of a federally sanctioned plebiscite to be held no later than 1998; Whereas, As we approach the new millennium, we recognize that the time has come for Puerto Rico to have the opportunity to express itself regarding its desire to attain full self-government within the context of a Congressionally authorized plebiscite; now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the City and County of San Francisco urges the Congress to pass, and the President to sign into law, legislation that would define the status options available and authorize a plebiscite to provide an opportunity for the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to make an informed decision regarding the island’s future political status.

 

Hispanic Organizations

John D. Trasvina, President and General Counsel,  Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund  (MALDEF), Letter to Representative Luis Fortuño (R-PR), March 27, 2007.  Since 1917, Puerto Ricans born on the island have been granted U.S. citizenship under the Jones Act.  Unlike other U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans serve in the military but are not permitted a vote for the Commander in Chief nor do they have full voting representation in the U.S. House or Senate.  Ultimately, whether this is acceptable to island residents is up to those residents.

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Resolution: Equal Rights for Puerto Ricans, July 1, 2006.  be it resolved, that the League of United Latin American Citizens express their full-fledge support to the rightful and legitimate aspiration of their disfranchised fellow citizens who reside in Puerto Rico.  Let it be further resolved, that the League of United Latin American Citizens will join and support all initiatives, present and future, through which 4 million U.S. citizens who reside in Puerto Rio may redress their grievances for lack of equal rights under the law.

Belen B. Robles, National President, League of United Latin American citizens (LULAC), Testimony before the House Committee on Resources, April 21, 1997, pp. 65-66.  How can the United States explain that we are the champions of democracy when 3.8 million citizens cannot vote for their President?  How can the United States explain that its Congress decrees and laws apply to citizens who have no representation?  How can the United States explain to the world that part of their soldiers who are enlisted in its military do not have the civil rights to elect the President that could send them to war?

LULAC does not oppose maintaining a second-class citizenship, if that is the wish of this Congress.  However, we strongly feel that you need to fully inform Puerto Ricans of the limitation of this form of citizenship so they know what they will be voting for.

It is important that the Congress make clear to the people of Puerto Rico the true nature of statehood, independence and Commonwealth alternatives that are before them.

Hispanic National Bar Association Resolution, January 31, 2004.  Whereas, the Hispanic National Bar Association stands by its prior Resolution, dated May 1, 1998, in support of self-determination for the People of Puerto Rico;  Therefore, be it Resolved, that the Hispanic National Bar Association recommends that the United States Congress adopt, and the President sign, legislation that affords the four million U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico a process that defines the non-territorial options that are available to the People of Puerto Rico and that authorizes a federal referendum on the Island that enables them to make an informed decision on a permanent legal status for Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican Professional Association of South Florida (PROFESA) Resolution, 2001, Whereas, we recognize the many social, economic and political contributions the 3.8 million U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico make to conserve and enhance this nation’s democratic values, in spite almost half of the Island’s population migrating into the United States (3.4 million); and Now, Therefore, be it Resolved by the Puerto Rican Professional Association of South Florida (PROFESA): That PROFESA petitions the United States Congress pass, and the President sign into law, legislation establishing a self-determination process with clearly defined, non-colonial status options, that authorizes granting the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico a basic and well-earned democratic right to make an informed decision to resolve the Island’s political limbo and their uncertain future.

Hispanic Coalition for Puerto Rican Self-Determination, Declaration of Hispanic Organizations in Support of Puerto Rican Self-Determination, Published September 16, 1998.  [W]e call on Congress to grant the 3.9 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico the opportunity to gain permanent political status by a process of self-determination. . . . We urge the Senate leadership to fulfill its responsibility to promote the rights of all citizens by enacting Puerto Rican self-determination legislation during National Hispanic Heritage Month.  [Signed by:  Alianza Dominicana, American GI Forum, Cuban America National Council, Dialogue on Diversity, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, Hispanic National Bar Association, Hispanic Organizations Leadership Alliance, Latino Civil Rights Task Force, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Association for Bilingual Education, National Association of Hispanic Associations, National Association of Hispanic Publications, National Hispanic Council on Aging, National Hispanic Policy Forum, National Puerto Rican Bar Association, National Puerto Rican Forum, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Puerto Rican American American Foundation, Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration, Republican National Assembly, Southwestern Voter Institute, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, Puerto Rico LULAC, New Mexico LULAC, Michigan LULAC, Iowa LULAC, LULAC Council #10, LULAC Council #7063, LULAC Council #316, LULAC Council #4607, LULAC Council #272.]

The Americas Foundation, Resolution in Support of the Enactment of Federal Legislation Providing for a Congressional Mandated Process Leading Toward Self-Determination for Puerto Rico, November 19, 1997.  Whereas The Americas Foundation’s mission is to: (1) Create New Opportunities:  The Foundation works to build educational and economic empowerment opportunities for Hispanic Americans at all socio-economic levels. (2) Break Barriers:  The Foundation works to break existing barriers and glass ceilings for qualified professional Hispanic Americans. (3) Build Bridges:  The Foundation works to build trade and business opportunities between the United Sates, Latin America and the Caribbean nations.  Whereas on January 23, 1997, the Legislature of Puerto Rico adopted Concurrent Resolution 2 requesting “…the One Hundred and Fifty (United States) Congress and the President of the United Sates of America to respond to the democratic aspirations of the American citizens of Puerto rico in order to achieve a process that guarantees the prompt decolonization of Puerto Rico by means of a plebiscite sponsored by the Federal Government, which must be held no later than 1998; Now therefore, be it resolved, that all members of the Americas Foundation across this Nation urge all members of the United States House of Representatives and Senate to support H.R. 856, “United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act” and S. 472, “Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act,” respectively, which provide for a process leading towards self-determination for 3.8 million Hispanic U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico.

The Cuban American National Foundation, letter to the Republican National Committee (RNC), October 29, 1997. Our party is beginning to recognize the importance of the Hispanic vote all around the nation and that’s why the Puerto Rican issue is the best opportunity to demonstrate that new beginning.  For all the reasons stated above, We strongly urge the Republican Party to support this Legislation [H.R. 856].

Greater New York Hispanic Republican Council, Resolution in Support of Legislation Providing for a Congressionally Mandated Self-Determination Process for Puerto Rico,  October 7, 1997.  Whereas, Puerto Rico in 1998 will have been a colony of the United States for one-hundred years; and Whereas, the Jones Act of 1917 granted United States Citizenship to the residents of Puerto Rico; and Whereas, the citizens of Puerto Rico have rallied to the defense of the United States in every military conflict since 1917 with a great many making the ultimate sacrifice for Democracy….Therefore, be it resolved, that we hereby express our total support for H.R. 856, the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act and S. 472, the Puerto-Rico Self-Determination Act; and Be it Further Resolved, that we urge the Leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate to dedicate their efforts to have these measures approved.

Republican National Hispanic Assembly, A Resolution in Support of Legislation Providing for a Congressionally Mandated Self-Determination Process for Puerto Rico, April 26, 1997.  Whereas, the Republican Party Platform as well as every Republican President since Dwight D. Eisenhower has supported granting the United States citizens of Puerto Rico the opportunity to exercise the right of political self-determination that their fellow Americans in the fifty states enjoy; and Now, Therefore, be it Resolved, that this Assembly hereby expressed its unqualified support for H.R. 856, the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act . . . and for S. 472, the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 1997; and Be it Further Resolved, that this Assembly calls upon all Republicans in Congress to support these measures and urges the Leadership of the House and Senate to dedicate their efforts to have these measures approved this year by overwhelming majorities in Congress; and Be it Further Resolved, that the members of this Assembly will make the enactment of this legislation a matter of the highest priority.

Republican National Hispanic Assembly, A Resolution Presented by the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Virginia, 1997.  Whereas, the Republican Party Platform as well as every Republican President since Dwight D. Eisenhower has supported granting the United States citizens of Puerto Rico the opportunity to exercise the right of political self-determination that their fellow Americans in the fifty states enjoy; and Now, Therefore, be it Resolved, that this Assembly hereby expressed its unqualified support for H.R. 856, the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act . . . and for S. 472, the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 1997; and Be it Further Resolved, that this Assembly calls upon all Republicans in Congress to support these measures and urges the Leadership of the House and Senate to dedicate their efforts to have these measures approved this year by overwhelming majorities in Congress; and Be it Further Resolved, that the members of this Assembly will make the enactment of this legislation a matter of the highest priority.

Republican National Hispanic Assembly, Chairman José Rivera Letter to Rep. Richard K. Armey, July 15, 1997.  On behalf of all Republican Hispanics in our Nation, I am writing to urge your support for H.R. 856, the “United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act,” which would facilitate a process of self-determination for the 3.8 million American citizens residing in Puerto Rico.

We in the Republican Hispanic community believe that HR. 856 sends a clear message that this Nation believes in extending the ideals of democracy to all of our citizens.  In doing this, we understand that Congress is allowing our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico to empower themselves by indicating their preference in political status.

Support of H.R. 856 will demonstrate to the Hispanic American community, the fastest growing minority in the U.S., that their voice will be consistent with ongoing Republican Party efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community. . . . As H.R. 856 moves to the House Floor in the coming weeks, we hope to count on your support for this bill, which is of vital importance to Republican Hispanics.

 

Veterans Organizations

Vietnam Veterans of America Resolution, August 2, 2003.  Issue: The United States Constitution promises equal protection under the law to all U.S. citizens, and yet the island’s current political status treats veterans of Puerto Rico and their families differently than citizens residing in the fifty states of the Union, reminiscent of the “separate but equal” standard of a past era which, although eventually overturned, causes our society to continue to struggle with its repercussions.  Background:  On May 3, 1917, Puerto Ricans embarked on a mission in defense of the nation during WWI by protecting the Panama Canal Zone; and during WWII, Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment was decorated for its participation in the Naples-Foggian, Rome-Arne, Central Europe, and Rhineland campaigns; and during the Korea Conflict, more than 800 Puerto Ricans made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the universal right of self-determination; and during the Vietnam War, more than 500 Puerto Ricans gave their lives for the nation. There exists an ever-growing consensus among American veterans and leading veterans organizations, such as the American GI Forum, that the time has come to empower Puerto Rican men and women who have served with courage and distinction in the armed forces of the United States and their families to make a decision regarding their island’s ultimate destiny.  Resolved, That:  Vietnam Veterans of America, at the National Convention in St. Louis, MO, July 29 to August 3, 2003, supports legislation whereby the United States Congress would define the legal status options available to the approximately 200,000 Puerto Rican veterans who have served in the United States military and their families and authorize a plebiscite to provide an opportunity for the veterans of Puerto Rico and their families to make an informed decision regarding the island’s future.

The American Legion Resolution, 2003. Whereas, There exists an ever-growing consensus among American veterans and leading Hispanic organizations, such as the American GI Forum, the largest organization of Hispanic veterans of the United States, that the time has come to empower Puerto Rican men and women who have served with courage and distinction in the armed forces of the United States, and their fellow Puerto Ricans to make a decision regarding their island’s ultimate political destiny;  therefore, be it Resolved, By the American Legion, in the National Convention assembled in St. Luis, Missouri, August 26, 27, 28, 2003, that the American Legion, Department of Puerto Rico, requests that the Congress pass, and the President sign into law, legislation that would define the political status options available to the United States citizens of Puerto Rico and authorize a plebiscite to provide an opportunity for Puerto Ricans to make an informed decision regarding the island’s future political status.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Resolution, August, 2002.    Whereas, since Puerto Rico became part of the United States, the American citizens of Puerto Rico have steadfastly pursed greater local self-governing rights and responsibilities; and Whereas, Congress in its exercise of its responsibility under the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution has responded by granting increased levels of internal self-government to Puerto Rico; and Whereas, in spite of these advancements to achieve internal self-government, the federal government has never allowed the American citizens of Puerto Rico to determine their political future; and Whereas, this situation is a clear contradiction to one of most fundamental principles of American Democracy: Government by Consent [of] All Citizens; and Whereas, since 1917, 200,000 American citizens of Puerto Rico have joined their fellow American citizens, as members of the United States armed forces, defending and spreading the right to self-government all over the world; and Whereas, we recognize the contributions of the American citizens of Puerto Rico to our nation’s armed forces, and we believe that it is time to honor the memory of those who have died for our nation allowing them to exercise the same right they have fought and died for–Government by Consent; and Whereas, the Congressional legislation is the proper mechanism to establish a fair and valid self-determination process for the American citizens of Puerto Rico; now, therefore Be It Resolved, by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, that we urge the President of the United States and the Congress to enact legislation that supports self-determination for Puerto Rico by defining the political status options available to United States citizens of Puerto Rico and authorizing a plebiscite to provide an opportunity for Puerto Ricans to make an informed decision regarding the island’s political future.

American GI Forum of the United States, Resolution, August 11, 2000.  Whereas, Puerto Ricans have contributed to our nation’s defense in disproportionate numbers and include four Medal of Honor recipients; and have earned the right to decide if they wish to became full partners in our democracy; Whereas, the American GI Forum of the United States is a Hispanic veterans family organization that includes many Puerto Rico veterans and their families, and whose motto is “education is our freedom and freedom should be everybody’s business;” and Whereas, self-determination, and ultimately freedom for nearly four million American citizens of Puerto Rico to choose their future political status, is an issue about which there is insufficient education on the mainland, and the civil rights of these Hispanics is a matter for which we should stand with our fellow veterans;  Now Therefore, be it Resolved by the American GI Forum of the United States: That the American GI Forum of the United States supports the American Veterans’ Committee for Puerto Rico Self-Determination in its efforts toward enactment of federal legislation that would define the political status options available and provide for a plebiscite that would allow the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to make an informed decision regarding a permanent status for the island.

American G.I. Forum of the United States, Puerto Rico Chapter, Resolution, July 5, 2000.  Whereas, the American G.I. Forum Puerto Rico Chapter is an organization committed to ensuring that its Members, including those from Puerto Rico, enjoy the full benefits of their civil rights under our system of American democracy for which we have fought. Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the American G.I. Forum, Puerto Rico Chapter: That the Puerto Rico Chapter of the American G.I. Forum supports the efforts of the American Veterans’ Committee for Puerto Rico Self-Determination towards enactment of federal legislation that would define the political status options available and provide for a plebiscite that would allow the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to make an informed decision regarding a permanent status for the island.

 

Other Organizations

B’nai B’rith, International President Tommy Baer, Letter to Governor Pedro Rossello, November 7, 1997.  I write to express our support for the proposed plebiscite [H.R. 856] in which the people of Puerto Rico will have the opportunity to redefine their relationship with the federal government.  Puerto Rico has, for the last 100 years, been a proud part of the United States.  As full American citizens, the people of Puerto Rico have served in the military and participated in our political process.  For the first time, however, they will have a congressionally supported referendum to define their relationship with the federal government.  In the highest tradition of American democracy, the people of Puerto Rico will be able to choose statehood, independence, or a continuation of the commonwealth.

The Young Republican National Federation, A Resolution in Support of Legislation by the Congressional Republican Leadership Providing a Self-Determination Process for Puerto Rico, July 11, 1997.  Whereas, since President Theodore Roosevelt proposed to extend United States Citizenship to the residents of Puerto Rico in 1905, which Congress conferred in 1917, the United States Citizens of Puerto Rico have been contributing immeasurably to the Nation in cultural, social, economic, and political terms, with thousands of them valiantly serving in every military conflict in which our Nation has engaged in this century; Whereas, every Republican President since Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the Republican Party Platform as well, have supported self-determination for the United States Citizens of Puerto Rico; Now, Therefore, be it Resolved, that this Federation hereby expresses its unqualified support for the current legislative initiatives by Republican leaders in the United States House and Senate to provide a process leading to full self-government for Puerto Rico in order to finally resolve Puerto Rico’s political status; Be it Further Resolved, that the Young Republican National Federation calls upon all Republicans in the Congress to vigorously support the passage of these self-determination measures of the Republican Congressional leadership, consistent with the long-standing support of the Republican Party for full enfranchisement of United States Citizens.

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