Mary V. Mochary

Mary V. Mochary, Department of State Principal Deputy Legal Adviser, Testimony before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, July 11, 1989, pp. 153-155.  The proposal for an enhanced commonwealth . . . would create an unprecedented political status for Puerto Rico.  It would grant to Puerto Rico significant attributes of sovereignty which would be incompatible with remaining a part of the United States.

Many provisions require important transfers of authority from the Executive to the Puerto Rican Government.  These new powers would extend well beyond those currently enjoyed by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or other nonfederated U.S. commonwealths and territories.

The Department objects to any delegation to another entity such as a state or territorial commonwealth of the authority vested in the Executive by the Constitution to conduct and oversee U.S. foreign relations.  The Department does not agree to any language which implies a derogation of the President’s power to negotiate for and represent the United States, including Puerto Rico, in the area of foreign relations.

With respect to the issuance of U.S. passports and visas, these functions have been strictly relegated to the Department of State.  The United States under no circumstances should cede its power to determine citizenship by the issuance of U.S. passports and to relegate and control its borders to any other authority.

Apart from constitutional concerns, there are foreign policy concerns and sound practical reasons for opposing these provisions so that control over the issuance of U.S. passports and immigration remains in the hands of a Federal authority.  Chief among these are law enforcement interests and the need to promote the uniform issuance of passports.

A final matter of concern flowing from [Enhanced Commonwealth] is the likely impact it will have on U.S. positions in international organizations.  Puerto Rico has a longstanding desire for greater freedom to participate in international organizations under its own auspices.  The United States cannot cede greater freedom for participation in international organizations than Puerto Rico already enjoys.  This participation is currently limited, subject to U.S. agreement, to observer status, associate status, or to U.S. delegation participation in approved organizations.  This circumscribed participation has been carefully crafted over many years to maximize Puerto Rico’s freedom without unacceptably compromising other U.S. objectives and prerogatives.

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