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Federal Officials Express Support for Puerto Rico Equality, Statehood

As we remember Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico three years ago and look ahead to a presidential election in which the votes of stateside Puerto Ricans matter more than ever, members of Congress and other representatives of the federal government are paying attention to the U.S. territory.

This renewed awareness of Puerto Rico comes with statements from many government leaders showing support for Puerto Rico equality, often being explicit in their endorsement of statehood to achieve equal rights.

Former President Barack Obama may have played a role in kicking off the current influx of comments in his eulogy for former Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis on July 30, 2020 when he said “[o]nce we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching to make it even better by making sure every American is automatically registered to vote….By guaranteeing that every American citizen has equal representation in our government, including the American citizens who live in Washington, D.C., and in Puerto Rico. They’re Americans…”

Just last week, at a campaign event in Kissimmee, Florida, Presidential candidate Joe Biden made his position on Puerto Rico clear, stating, “I happen to believe statehood would be the most effective means of ensuring that residents of Puerto Rico are treated equally, with equal representation at a federal level. But the people of Puerto Rico must decide and the United States Federal Government must respect and act on that decision.”

With the next Puerto Rico plebiscite scheduled for November 3rd, Vice President’s message that he will honor and advance the results of that vote is timely.

Biden’s recent remarks are consistent with his 2012 statement as Vice President to a White House intern, as covered in this February 2015 Orlando Sentinel article: “I have always found Puerto Rico’s current political status as something very bizarre. My word of advice to you, and all Puerto Ricans, is that you continue to fight hard until you reach your goal of equality, and we shall act.”

On Sunday, Vice Presidential candidate and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) reinforced Biden’s message to Puerto Rican voters that their voices will be heard in a Biden/Harris administration. “ [B]oth Joe Biden and I have a promise for you: we see you, we hear you, and with each passing day, we are with you,” she wrote.

Harris further emphasized: “The founding promise of the United States of equality for all extends to all who live in Puerto Rico.”

A number of Members of Congress have been quite vocal for their support of Puerto Rico equality and statehood:

  • Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL-09)
    • September 15, 2020: “As we mark the first day of #HispanicHeritageMonth, I’m introducing a resolution that would support Puerto Rico’s Nov. 3rd plebiscite results and call upon Congress and the President to take action in 2021 if Puerto Ricans vote for statehood.” (Twitter)
    • September 15, 2020: “On the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, the introduction of our resolution is about respecting democracy and the will of the people of Puerto Rico. If Puerto Ricans vote for statehood, we must take action to admit the 51st state of our Union.”  (The Hill)
    • September 1, 2020: “The people of #PuertoRico will vote on Statehood in Nov. This is about democracy not some “radical” agenda. If they vote yes, we will admit them to the union next year, when voters send [Senate GOP] into the minority #PRStatehoodNOW” (Twitter)
    • August 25, 2020: “We have a plebiscite on the Island coming up this November. If the people of #PuertoRico choose statehood, then the next steps for Congress are pretty clear. We vote to admit them to the union. In such a scenario, there would be no need for this bill.” (Twitter)
    • July 30, 2020: “If #PuertoRico voters choose #statehood, Congress has the final say and will support you! #PRStatehoodNow” (Twitter)
    • July 12, 2020: “Apparently Pres Trump considered “selling” #PuertoRico. This is absolutely disgraceful. It also highlights precarious nature of Americans’ rights there and Island’s status. This wouldn’t happen if they were a state with 2 Senators & 4 Reps. #PRStatehoodNOW” (Twitter)
    • June 26, 2020: “Today we voted to make DC the #51st Now let’s vote to make #PuertoRico the #52ndState #PRStatehoodNOW” (Twitter)
    • June 5, 2020: “Trump opposes PR Statehood. Joe Biden is open-minded & following 2020 Plebiscite. [Florida Democrats] passed resolution in support while [Florida GOP] leaders are now opposing PR statehood. Fellow Boricua take note! #PRStatehoodNOW” (Twitter)
    • May 21, 2020: “#PuertoRico will FINALLY have a simple “Statehood? Yes or No” vote during a high turnout general election this Nov 2020! Through #PROMESA, #HurricaneMaria & #Earthquakes, Puerto Ricans have been treated like 2nd class citizensin DC. Vote YES for #Equality & #FairRepresentation!” (Twitter)
    • March 11, 2020: “In remembering the legacy of my longtime mentor, friend & trusted advisor, Alvaro Cifuentes, I am reminded of his dedication and passion for fighting for the people of Puerto Rico. We will continue the journey for PR statehood, always in his honor. Rest in power, my dear friend” (Twitter)
    • July 19, 2019: “Even in the darkest of hours, hope can emerge. A majority of Americans (2/3) favor Puerto Rican statehood! #PRStatehoodNow” (Twitter)
    • June 19, 2019: “It’s ignorant for [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] to say supporting Puerto Rico Statehood is socialism — equal civil rights is definition of Democracy! Our Statehood Bill has bipartisan support, w/ [Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón] (GOP) and Gov. [Ricardo Rosselló] (Dem) endorsement.” (Twitter)
    • April 12, 2019: “We expect a hearing for HR 1965 to make Puerto Rico a State. As stated in [Orlando Sentinel] Op-Ed supporting Statehood, Congress needs to respect these elections…Whether Puerto Rico has another plebiscite is up to them. “Statehood? Yes or No” or other choice. In the meantime, I will continue to push for this legislation.” (Twitter)
    • April 5, 2019: “As 2020 nears, Puerto Rico statehood looms large in Florida. Whether you support Statehood or Independence, one thing is for sure. The territorial status of Puerto Rico must go!” (Twitter)
    • March 28, 2019: “It’s time to end 120 years of colonialism for Puerto Ricans. Today, along with [Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón], I’m proud to introduce the first direct Puerto Rico Statehood bill to admit the island as 51st state of the union! #PRStatehoodNOW” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL-07)
    • September 15, 2020: “U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico will soon hold a simple, fair, yes-or-no vote on statehood. Today I joined @RepDarrenSoto, @RepJenniffer & many of my FL colleagues in filing a bipartisan resolution emphasizing that Congress must act if the people of PR confirm they want statehood.” (Twitter)
    • September 15, 2020: “This is a moral issue for me. Puerto Ricans deserve to have the same rights & responsibilities as their fellow citizens in Florida and every other state. No more second-class treatment. #FlaPol #FL07” (Twitter)
    • August 27, 2020: “The people of Puerto Rico, thru their elected representatives, have chosen to hold a “yes-or-no” referendum on statehood in Nov.—the fairest & simplest way to proceed. If voters confirm they want statehood, I’ll work with both parties to pass a bill making the territory a state…Statehood is the only status option that will give the American citizens who live in Puerto Rico true democracy and equality, which is what they deserve and have earned.” (Twitter)
    • August 20, 2020: “Our fellow American citizens in #PuertoRico deserve true equality. That’s why I support statehood, which would give the Puerto Rican people voting rights, guarantee their equal treatment under all federal laws, and improve quality of life on the island.” (Twitter)
    • May 27, 2020: “A Member of Congress should advocate for causes they believe in & try to convince their colleagues of the merit of those causes. If the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico confirm they want statehood, I will help lead the fight to admit Puerto Rico as our 51st state.” (Twitter)
    • May 19, 2020: “I’m very pleased the Puerto Rico government will hold a “yes-or-no” vote on statehood in November. This is the best and fairest way to structure the vote. Those who support statehood can vote yes and those who oppose it can vote no…I hope the American citizens of Puerto Rico confirm they want statehood. If they do, I’ll work in a bipartisan way in Congress to enact legislation admitting the territory as a state…Statehood is the only way to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico enjoy genuine democracy and equality under the American flag, which they deserve and have earned.” (Twitter)
    • January 27, 2020: “It’s rare & refreshing to hear a presidential candidate support statehood for #PuertoRico in such morally-clear terms. These American citizens serve & sacrifice for our country. They deserve the genuine equality and political power that only statehood can provide. #Bloomberg2020” (Twitter)
    • November 24, 2018: “In 2014, Congress enacted a law authorizing a federally-sponsored vote in #PuertoRico on its status. I hope PR holds a simple yes-or-no vote on whether it wants to be a state, and I hope voters reaffirm they support statehood. U.S. citizens in PR deserve true equality.” (Twitter)
    • September 25, 2018: “The movement for statehood for #PuertoRico is noble. It’s rooted in the simple yet powerful belief that the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico have earned the right to vote for their national leaders & to equality under law. This quest for justice should transcend partisan politics.” (Twitter)
    • June 29, 2018: “This week, I was proud to work with Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress, [Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón], to file legislation to begin the territory’s transition to #statehood. I spoke on the House floor about why equality for the American citizens of #PuertoRico is so important.” (Twitter)
    • June 27, 2018: “I joined [Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón] today to file a bipartisan bill to begin Puerto Rico’s transition to #statehood. After 120 years, #PuertoRico deserves—and has earned—full equality and its own star on our nation’s flag.” (Twitter)
    • March 4, 2018: “Residents of #PuertoRico were granted US citizenship 101 yrs ago this week. They‘ve since made countless contributions to our nation in times of war & peace. However, as a US territory, PR is treated unfairly under federal law. I support statehood & full equality for Puerto Rico.” (Twitter)
    • January 17, 2018: “It was great to meet with former #PuertoRico Governor Pedro Rosselló to reaffirm my support for statehood for PR. It’s time for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico to have the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens living in Florida and every other state.” (Twitter)
    • June 21, 2017: “#PuertoRico has earned statehood & a star on the American flag. Watch my speech today on the island’s political status.” (Twitter)
    • June 11, 2017: “The people of Puerto Rico voted in favor of statehood today. Here is my statement: ‘I commend Puerto Rico for holding a vote on its future political status. The ballot was fair and those who voted overwhelmingly chose statehood. In our democracy, only those who show up to vote get counted. I will always support equality through statehood for the 3.4 American citizens that reside in Puerto Rico. Given their contributions to our nation in times of war and peace for well over a century, they deserve to have the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens living in Florida and every other state.’” (Twitter)
    • June 7, 2017: “I continue to support Puerto Rican statehood and will be watching the June 11 plebiscite with great interest.” (Twitter)
    • March 2, 2017: “Today marks 100 yrs since Puerto Ricans granted American citizenship. I support US statehood for Puerto Rico & equal treatment.” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20)
    • June 11, 2017: “Puerto Rico should be admitted as a state to the United States.” (Twitter)
  • Rep. José Serrano (D-NY-15)
    • August 25, 2020: “I have always supported an end to the colonial commonwealth status. The horrific inequities and harms of the past few years have made clear why Puerto Rico needs either statehood or independence.  But that choice shouldn’t be limited to a club of elites.” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL-27)
    • October 29, 2019: “I support the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act because the right to self-determination lies at the very heart of American democracy. The Puerto Rican people deserve to exercise that right by holding a plebiscite on the question of statehood for their island. #PR51st” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA-26)
    • November 6, 2019: “The right to self-determination lies at the very heart of American democracy, and that is why I support the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act. The people of Puerto Rico deserve a chance to exercise this inherent right and have a pathway to statehood. #PR51st” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08)
    • March 28, 2019: “Proud to stand w/ [Rep. Darren Soto, Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló & others in introducing statehood legislation for the +3 million Americans living in Puerto Rico. We’ve admitted 37 states since the Union formed & it’s time to expand democracy again for the ppl of PR & DC.” (Twitter)
    • January 12, 2019: “Two million Americans in Puerto Rico need disaster assistance, broad-based education and economic development, and real political equality. I’m totally with Governor [Ricardo Rossello]’s call for statehood.” (Twitter)
    • October 25, 2017: “…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…” (Congressional Record, Page H8219)
    • October 23, 2017: “We need bipartisan action to pass the GOP’s platform plank of Puerto Rican statehood to revive the island’s economy.” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Val Demings (D-FL-10)
    • June 16, 2020: “For those asking: I also support statehood for Puerto Rico.” (Twitter)
    • February 11, 2020: “Puerto Rico is larger than NINETEEN states, and should also be immediately granted statehood. (I have cosponsored legislation for both PR and D.C.)” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA-06)
    • June 15, 2019: We need a new Voting Rights Act in America to: – end voter suppression & gerrymandering, – institute automatic voter registration nationwide, – restore voting rights for rehabilitated felons, – guarantee paid time off to vote, and – grant statehood to Puerto Rico and D.C.” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ-08)
    • January 16, 2019: “Sat down with [Charles A. Rodriguez] to discuss the importance of #PuertoRico gaining #statehood and restoring Puerto Rico’s financial status.” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23)
    • December 13, 2018: “I will miss having my friend [Ileana Ros-Lehtinen] in Congress. In her absence, I promise to fight twice as hard for statehood for Puerto Rico.” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI-02)
    • November 12, 2018: – “Congressman Langevin is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018, which would formally authorize the admission of Puerto Rico as a state of the Union. Puerto Ricans are United States citizens that deserve the dignity, sovereignty, and equality that comes with statehood. The tragic and lasting effects of Hurricane Maria have demonstrated that fact.” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07)
    • March 28, 2019: “It is fundamentally unfair for the people of Puerto Rico – who serve in our military & contribute to our country – to be treated as 2nd class American citizens. I am proud to support legislation that will finally ensure 3 million Puerto Ricans are treated fairly. #PRStatehoodNow” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05), House Majority Leader
    • June 15, 2017 “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.” (Congressional Record, Page H4934)
    • “I will continue to stand up in Congress for the people of Puerto Rico, who are American citizens, to ensure that they can choose the status they believe is best for them.” Statement
    • “Puerto Rico, of course, is an integral part of the United States of America.  Its citizens are citizens of the United States of America,” Video
  • Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL-06)
    • October 5, 2018: “#PuertoRico is filled with #ServantLeaders. It has more military members/vets per capita than any other state in the US! I fully support #statehood for PR” (Twitter)
  • Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT-01), Ranking Member, House Natural Resources Committee
    • May 4, 2018: “I want to be very clear: I’m in favor of Puerto Rico statehood. If people are willing to sit down, put partisanship aside, and do what is best for the people of Puerto Rico, we will have success.” (Press Conference)
  • Rep. Don Young (R-AK-01)
    • June 26, 2020: “…Statehood for Puerto Rico would give it the tools, resources, and power necessary to get its fiscal house in order so that taxpayers are not on the hook to bail out the island…The people of Puerto Rico have voted twice in the past eight years to become a state, and I continue working closely with [Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón] and other advocates to help make their admission to the Union a reality…” (Twitter)
    • June 15, 2017: “I think it is time that America should stop colonizing. If I am not mistaken, this is the last Nation that has a colony. The great America of the United States has a colony, and I think it is time that we change that. Vote in Congress to make sure that we have the 51st State.” Congressional Record, page H4934
    • June 15, 2017: “I believe so strongly that we treat every American equally. This is a civil rights issue, and they have voted 97 percent in favor of statehood… I ask every American to think about it. Let’s make this the last colony. Let’s make this the 51st State.”Congressional Record, page H4934
  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI)
    • August 28, 2019: “Puerto Rico wouldn’t be mistreated like this if they had two United States Senators.” (Twitter)
    • March 30, 2019: “Puerto Rico statehood should be one of our highest priorities in the next Congress. If they had Senators and Representatives these Americans wouldn’t be so badly mistreated in the wake of the disaster.” (Twitter)
    • March 22, 2019: “I understand that statehood for Puerto Rico should be determined first by residents of PR, and that Congress should pass a law only if the people of PR want it, but count me as a YES when the time comes. Millions of Americans without any Congressional representatives is unfair.” (Twitter)
    • February 24, 2019: “Underrated issues for 2020 – cost of insulin. Lead in housing. A financial transactions tax. Medicaid. The Paris Accords. Social Security. Puerto Rico statehood. Extending solar credits. Rural broadband. Preventing the VA from being privatized.” (Twitter)
    • September 15, 2018: “Puerto Rico should be a state. Americans deserve representation in Congress and in the Electoral College.” (Twitter)
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
    • September 25, 2018: “The issue of statehood for Puerto Rico is a decision that must be made by the people of the island. How outrageous is it that the president is opposing Puerto Rican statehood simply because he doesn’t like the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz?…” (Facebook)
  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
    • October 24, 2017:  “…[W]e 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.” (Congressional Record, Page S6724)
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
    • October 19, 2020: “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.” (Congressional Record, Page S661)
  • Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
    • October 5, 2017:  “…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.” (Congressional Record, Page S6353)
  • Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
    • 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.” (Remarks– Capitol Hill Rally for Puerto Rican Equality)
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
  • Sen. Governor Jared Polis (D-CO) (Former Representative)
    • October 11, 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.” (House Floor Statement Congressional Record, Page H7932)
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
    •  October 23, 2019: “It is time for Puerto Rico to be a state and have representation in the House of Representatives and the Senate (of the United States).” El Nuevo Dia
  • Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss (DC)
    • “October 15, 2018: “The [New York Times] makes the case for #DCStatehood and #Statehood for #PuertoRico by explaining how #UnDemocratic the US #Senate is as an institution. ‘The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People’ (Twitter)
  • Candidate Ritchie Torres (D-NY-15)
    • August 2, 2020: “Bill Barr’s Justice Department defunds a referendum in Puerto Rico. [Barack Obama] supports statehood. [President Donald Trump] denies PR a chance to even vote on status in his latest act of sabotage against the island. It goes without saying: I stand with Obama.” (Twitter)
    • July 31, 2020: “President [Barack Obama] came out in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico. I made the same case a few weeks ago.  If Puerto Ricans are American citizens, why not make them equal under the law?  Statehood = Legal Equality” (Twitter)
    • July 14, 2020: New York Daily News Op-Ed – “…There are two alternatives to the status quo of colonialism: independence and statehood. I am squarely on the side of statehood. Puerto Ricans are and have long been American citizens. Instead of depriving them of citizenship entirely, make Puerto Ricans equal under the law…” New York Daily News
    • July 12, 2020:  “The road to legal equality for Puerto Rico runs through statehood, which would protect the island from the colonial whims of a madman like Donald Trump.” (Twitter)
  • Democratic Party Chair Tom Pérez:
    • September 17, 2020: “[Biden] said, exactly, that personally he supports the statehood of Puerto Rico and he also said, clearly, that it is very important that Puerto Ricans decide their future.” Video

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