Congress makes territories into States. Thirty-two territories have already become States, and it has been Congress that has launched the federal process in every case. The President of the United States signs the bill that completes the process, but the president cannot create or vote for the bill.
That doesn’t mean that presidents don’t have opinions on statehood for Puerto Rico.
George H.W. Bush supported statehood
President George H.W. Bush supported statehood for Puerto Rico. He told his speechwriters to include the subject in his first State of the Union Address in 1989. When they left the topic out, he wrote in his own words, saying, “I strongly support statehood.”
Ronald Reagan supported statehood
“The United States will welcome you with open arms,” said President Ronald Reagan. “I personally favor statehood.”
President Reagan wrote a strongly worded letter on the subject saying that statehood would benefit Puerto Rico and the United States alike. He also wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal including these words:
[My campaign speech] 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.
Gerald Ford supported statehood
“If you favor statehood as I do,” President Gerald Ford said in a video ad, “send a strong message to Congress and to the nation.”
In 1977, President Ford made a very clear statement in support of statehood for Puerto Rico. “The common bonds of friendship, tradition, dignity and individual freedom have joined the people of the United States and the people of Puerto Rico,” he said. “It is now time to make these bonds permanent through statehood.”
Presidents supporting self-determination for Puerto Rico
Many more presidents, including Trump, Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton, Carter, Kennedy, and Eisenhower, have spoken out in support of self-determination for Puerto Rico. The territory has formally requested statehood following two votes favoring this option.