“For 105 years, Puerto Ricans have been proud American citizens. We have contributed greatly to this country in every field of endeavor,” said Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR) from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 2, American Citizenship Day. “We have proudly upheld and defended the ideals that define our nation, including more than 235,000 who have honorably served in the U.S. armed forces, fighting side by side with our fellow citizens from the states. Yet despite our contributions, the reality is that we are still not equal.”
The people of Puerto Rico became citizens on March 2, 1917, with the passage of the Jones-Shafroth Act. American Citizenship Day is the annual recognition of the statutory grant of U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans.
In observance of American Citizenship Day of 2022, Puerto Rico’s only representative reserved time on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to point out the inequalities faced by the U.S. citizens she represents. Purto Rico has no representatives in Congress with the power to vote on legislation, no senators, and no vote in presidential elections. Gonzalez-Colon represents more than three million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico, yet has no vote on laws affecting her constituents. Puerto Rico is treated differently from the States.
“Only statehood can guarantee our full equality as citizens and that is why the people of Puerto Rico have voted to reject the current territorial status not once, not twice, but three times in a row,” said Gonzalez-Colon. She shared some details: 73% of people voted in 2020, and 53% voted for statehood. “That’s the biggest consensus on the island,” Gonzalez-Colon pointed out.
Rep. Maria Salazar
Rep. Maria Salazar (R-FL) followed Gonzalez-Colon, recalling how, when her parents fled Cuba, they went to live in Puerto Rico. “It was in Puerto Rico where I first learned about American values. It was in Puerto Rico where I learned the meaning behind the American flag and the central value of freedom and liberty,” she said. “Puerto Ricans received the Cuban exile community with open arms. That is why today I take this opportunity from the floor of the United States Congress, as a Congresswoman for the city of Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community in the United States. I thank the Puerto Ricans for their noble act of welcoming millions and millions of Cubans to the island and giving them the possibility of living in freedom, in peace, and living in paradise.”
Salazar called for statehood for Puerto Rico.
Rep. Darren Soto
Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) also made a statement on the House Floor in support of full equality for Puerto Rico. “You and I have fought together, along with our allies here, on everything from food assistance to Medicaid to finally getting Puerto Rico treated equally in the American Rescue Plan, to finally getting the people of Puerto Rico treated equally in infrastructure,” he said. “But those battles will continue if we do not resolve the territorial status…This is where we can take a stand in the Caribbean for democracy and give our brothers and sisters back on the island the opportunity to forge your own destinies.”
Rep. Susan Wild
Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) also made a statement, saying, “The United States would not be what it is without the contributions of [the Puerto Rican] community. Every aspect of our national legacy, our cultural and artistic heritage, our groundbreaking discoveries in science and technology, the dynamism of our economy, and the strength of our Armed Forces has been shaped indelibly by these fellow citizens.
“And yet despite their service, residents of the island cannot vote for the Commander in Chief. They lack voting representation in Congress. And despite paying into programs like Medicare and Medicaid, they do not have equitable coverage under these programs,” she continued. ” Today, the 105th anniversary of the date when the people of Puerto Rico became United States citizens must mark the moment when we finally begin the work of passing legislation to give the people in Puerto Rico a long overdue voice and a vote in their future.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (R-FL) said, “[T]he people of Puerto Rico continue to be denied equal rights, including voting representation in the United States Congress. This inequality has real consequences. As we saw so vividly in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico faced injustices that no U.S. State would ever endure.
“These inequities exist not only when it comes to recovery assistance, it can be seen in tax and Medicare inequities. Put simply, these disparities are un-American. A stronger political voice can help remedy that. Today, I stand in solidarity with my colleagues in calling for what has been long overdue: statehood for Puerto Rico.”
Rep. Val Demings
Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) also spoke. “For over a century, the residents of Puerto Rico have been treated as second-class citizens within our country. It is un-American and it is unjust,” she said. “Second class citizens not only in their vote but also in health care, senior assistance, and the child tax credit. This is wrong. Today on the 105th anniversary of citizenship for Puerto Rico, it is time for us to stand up yet again and declare that equal rights are an American value, that fairness and justice are American values, and that the Americans on the island of Puerto Rico must have justice, must have fair treatment, and must have statehood.”
Other members of Congress
Other legislators made their remarks in social media.
- Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said in a Facebook post on March 2, 2022, 105 years ago today, the US granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans. Over the years, Puerto Ricans have lived as citizens, served in our military, but have not enjoyed the full benefits of citizenship. We cannot let 105 more years go by, let alone one, to make Puerto Rico a state. Glad to join my colleagues today in support of adding Puerto Rico as our 51st state.”
- Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) tweeted, “105 years ago we told Puerto Ricans that they were US citizens, and yet today, they still do not enjoy the full rights of that title. We are in a battle for democracy here at home and abroad – granting Puerto Rico statehood is an important part of that fight.”
- Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) tweeted, “Proud to join @RepJenniffer and @RepDarrenSoto on the 105th Anniversary of U.S. Citizenship to the people of Puerto Rico! Full equality for Boricuas!”
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced a resolution in the Senate on the same day commemorating the 105th anniversary of Puerto Rico’s U.S. citizenship. The Senate passed this resolution by Unanimous Consent, with no vote taken.
“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico have provided invaluable contributions to our society and economy throughout the years, and we are a better nation because of it,” Rubio said. “I’m proud to lead this resolution, which recognizes the historic day Puerto Ricans were rightly recognized as citizens of our nation.”
Heinrich introduced the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Bill, S 780, in the Senate, and Padilla is a cosponsor. Both Rubio and Scott have spoken in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico many times, but have not cosponsored the Heinrich bill.