Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon has introduced a new Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act.
The bill (H.R. 4901) calls for a federally-sponsored plebiscite asking voters simply whether Puerto Rico should become a State. This up-or-down inquiry is the same question Hawaii and Alaska used when they became States of the Union.
Under the bill introduced yesterday, this vote will take place on November 3, 2020 — Election Day.
45 Members of Congress, 29 Democrats and 16 Republicans, signed on as initial co-sponsors of the bill. At the press conference announcing the legislation, speakers included Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Rob Bishop (R-UT), Don Young (R-AK), and Jose Serrano (D-NY) as well as Puerto Rican leaders.
Statehood for Puerto Rico has historically been a bi-partisan issue. Both national party platforms include support for Puerto Rico statehood. Puerto Rico voters have chosen statehood in the last two plebiscites, in 2012 and 2017.
Murphy said, “I support statehood for Puerto Rico because I support equality for the people of Puerto Rico.”
Serrano said that he wanted his friends and family in Puerto Rico to have the same rights he has.
Longtime statehood supporters Rob Bishop and Don Young joked about the long struggle for statehood and their hope that they will be able to vote for the new bill.
The bill begins with a review of the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States, pointing out not only the lengthy history but also the many contributions to the U.S. by the people of Puerto Rico.
It goes on to say, “Unincorporated territory status means that federal laws can be applied to Puerto Rico and its American citizens differently, on unequal and even inequitable terms, compared not only to the States and their residents, but also unlike territories that were considered to be parts of the United States. This has limited the development of Puerto Rico and hindered its economy.”
The bill reminds readers that Puerto Rico voters have chosen statehood in two referenda, and that no territory that has requested statehood has ever been denied admission. It says that acceptance of the bill should be considered a commitment by Congress to take action on the vote.