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Oldest Civil Rights Organization Backs Statehood for Puerto Rico

The League of United Latino American Citizens (LULAC), the largest and oldest organization focusing on civil rights for Hispanic Americans, has come out in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico.

This is not the first time LULAC has announced support for statehood. However, recent attention in the House of Representatives on two competing legislative proposals has made the issue more high profile, prompting LULAC to be more public with its position.

As The Hill reported, “the decision by the League of United Latino American Citizens (LULAC), a national organization, to take an affirmative stance on the issue marks a break from a historical trend where the status issue was seen as out of bounds to groups off the island.”

Sindy Benavides, CEO of LULAC, told The Hill, “We see continuously how our Puerto Rican community is treated as second class citizens — the fact that there are over 235,000 men and women who have served honorably in the military, who have lost their lives, and yet they cannot vote for the president of the United States.”


LULAC was founded in Texas in 1929, initially with a focus on discrimination against Mexican Americans. Over the years, the organization expanded its efforts to include all Hispanic citizens across the nation.

LULAC emphasized that the impetus to declare in favor of statehood came from Puerto Rican members. Puerto Rico has voted for statehood in three plebiscites in the 21st century, in 2012, 2017, and 2020.

“For years there has been an effort to say that there could be another status. It’s just not backed up by either Congress giving it any support or the Constitution,” The Hill quoted John Trasviña, former dean at the University of San Francisco School of Law, as saying. “The options for Puerto Ricans are either statehood or independence. Looking for something permanent, the Puerto Rican voters have consistently said most recently, ‘We want statehood.'”

Out of bounds

The idea that Puerto Rico’s political status is “out of bounds” for people who do not live on the Island discourages individuals and organizations from supporting equality for Puerto Rico as Americans so often support civil rights movements in other nations. Political candidates and even federal legislators — the people who will eventually make the decision on Puerto Rico’s status — most often say that they support doing whatever the people of Puerto Rico want.

Congress’s Responsibility for Puerto Rico

People continue to say this even now, a decade after Puerto Rico voters chose statehood in the 2012 referendum.

However, Congress makes the decisions for Puerto Rico, and people living on the Island have a very limited voice in Congress. Rather than having two senators and four Members of the House as they would if they became a State, Puerto Rico has a single non-voting representative.

Legislators represent their constituents, so people living in the states arguably have more influence over the actions of Congress than people living in Puerto Rico do. Since LULAC is an established, state-side organization, the organization’s support could be impactful.

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