The Puerto Rico Status Act is a proposed bill that has been endorsed by the leading sponsors of two competing bills introduced in Congress: HR 1522, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Bill, and HR 2070, the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act. The Puerto Rico Status Act calls for a new vote in Puerto Rico among three options for ending Puerto Rico’s undemocratic status as a U.S. territory: statehood, independence, and free association.
The current version of the bill is a discussion draft. A group of Members of Congress is visiting Puerto Rico to hold discussion forums there, and the Committee on Natural Resources has also set up a virtual discussion room where members of the public can leave comments.
At this page, visitors can comment on the draft, and many have already done so.
While lawmakers and organizations can comment, none have done so as of this writing. Constituents, however, have left a wide range of comments, from “STATEHOOD IS GENOCIDE” to “We demand that the option of reunification be included among the options in a future plebiscite” to “I am a strong believer that Puerto Ricans living in the island will select statehood to finally have the political power in Washington and to contribute to this great nation.”
Among the comments, several request that other status options be added to the ballot. “Commonwealth” predictably is most frequently proposed, but more than one commenter argued for reunification with Spain.
Statements in favor of one option or another are also common. Several statements argue against the inclusion of free association separately from independence.
“This language is sleazy,” wrote one person. “That ‘third option’ was purposefully crafted to be confused with non-indendependece. Sovereignty in Free Association sounds like non-independence and essentially like the current status quo…it is clearly intended to be confused with the status quo. Those proposing this third option know Puerto Ricans would NEVER vote for independence if it was clearly articulated as such. Tricking them into it might have a higher chance. It must not be 3 options because Sovereinty in Free Association is dependent on choosing option 2. Be clear. Make it a 2 option vote and then a followup vote if PRicans choose independence, THEN they can choose to have the compact of free association or not as a second vote.”
Citizenship under discussion
One of the most common issues brought up in the comments is the lack of clarity in the discussion on citizenship.
“Thank you for your hard work preparing a compromise bill. Puerto Rico has voted three times for statehood and will probably do so again. However, the description of Sovereign Free Association seems to have some ambiguity in its claims about citizenship. One reading means that citizenship could continue in perpetuity, as long as parents are both U.S. citizens. The other suggests that babies born in a new nation of Puerto Rico could acquire citizenship — perhaps by naturalization, as other COFA nations can,” wrote one commenter. “If this will require negotiation between the U.S. and the new nation of Puerto Rico, that should be made clear before the vote. People should not be misled into believing that continued U.S. citizenship is guaranteed if it really is not. Thank you for your attention.”
Another constituent said, “The draft bill wrongly ‘doublespeak’s’, under Independence and Independence with Pact of Free Association first says—’Puerto Rico has full authority and responsibility over its citizenship and immigration laws, and birth in Puerto Rico or relationship to persons with statutory United States citizenship by birth in the former territory shall cease to be a basis for United States nationality or citizenship, ‘ then turns around to state—(On what authority? All US Laws end upon Independence… )’…except that persons who have such United States citizenship have a right to retain United States nationality and citizenship for life, by entitlement or election as provided by Federal law.’
**On what authority does the US Congress make a non-permanent statutory US Citizenship and benefits for ‘Life’? The US Congress– is not above the US Constitution…”
The same constituent lists some facts:
“• The US Congress has the right under the US Constitution, to amend or change any Laws or Codes it makes. A future Congress can do likewise.
• The Territorial Clause and Insular Cases, and the 1917 Jones Act that define statutory US Citizenship, Federal Laws, and the protection of the US Constitution–ENDS upon Independence where PR is no longer a US Territory…
• There is no “Group” dual US Citizenship in our US Constitution.”
A number of comments call for “the diaspora,” or stateside Puerto Ricans, to be included in the decision.
“This bill will affect the legal status of any U.S. citizen born in Puerto Rico but living in a U.S. State,” wrote a commenter from Texas. “Therefore, U.S. citizens born in Puerto Rico but living in U.S. States must be allowed to vote by mail in the plebiscite.”
“I propose those that have voted in previous PR elections (are listed in the State Election Commission) that have moved from the island to another state are allowed to vote as absentee,” suggests another constituent. “What would not be fair would be to allow all Puerto Ricans living in the states to vote because the majority of them have never lived in the island.”
Many of the commenters live in States.
The Puerto Rico Report will continue to report on the comments as they are posted.