National Council of La Raza President and CEO Janet Murguía published an opinion piece in The Hill today urging Congress to move quickly to help resolve Puerto Rico’s fiscal challenges.
Noting that “time running out for Congress to do its job for Puerto Rico,” Murguía emphasized that “the Speaker and his colleagues must continue their work with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other leaders to enact bipartisan legislation that respects the governance and integrity of Puerto Rico and allows for an orderly restructuring of the island’s debt obligations.”
One key sticking point in the negotiations has been the level of democratic representation to be granted to Puerto Rico in the new proposal. Although it is frequently pointed out that D.C. and New York lost autonomy when they were subject to a fiscal control board, the issue of maintaining some semblance of democratic freedom has long been especially important to the roughly 3.5 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico who lack federal voting rights.
Another controversial component of the evolving legislation is Puerto Rico’s authority to restructure its debt. The island territory currently lacks access to federal law that provides restructuring authority to the states, a situation that has led not only to a fight pending before Congress but also to litigation before the Supreme Court.
“What some in Congress fail to recognize.” wrote Murguía, “is that the 3.5 million people of Puerto Rico live in the United States. They are American citizens: they serve in our armed forces and share our values. There are hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans in Florida, New York, and elsewhere who are deeply concerned and looking for Congress to act. And there are 55 million Latinos in this country who are seeing millions of citizens suffering and asking why are we letting this happen.”
Murguía continued, “When I first wrote about this last November, I stated that this issue was not going away. Not only has it not gone away, it has gotten much, much worse. Turning a blind eye is no longer an option. One way or another, congressional leadership will have to address this issue. The question is whether they will act in time to avert a complete and total catastrophe that will reverberate for generations to come.”