In a press conference on March 2nd, Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) and Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR) announced the introduction of a new admissions bill for Puerto Rico.
“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico have again declared their desire for statehood, and Congress must follow suit. Today, along with Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, I’m proud to introduce the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act,” said Soto. “That’s why we’re introducing a bill that would grant statehood to Puerto Rico after a transition period and ratification vote. The US citizens in Puerto Rico need the same rights as their brothers and sisters in Florida and other states.”
An admissions bill lets Congress vote on whether to admit Puerto Rico as a State.
Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) announced matching legislation in the Senate. This kind of bill is known as a “companion bill.” If both the House and Senate pass the legislation, it will go to the president for his signature.
“Last November, a majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood and for full voting representation in the United States. Congress now has a moral responsibility to respond,” said Heinrich. “That’s why I’m proud to join Representatives González-Colón and Soto to announce bicameral legislation that will create a clear and direct path to formally admit Puerto Rico as a state. My home state of New Mexico had a similar struggle to achieve statehood. It took 50 New Mexico statehood bills and 64 years before we were finally admitted to the United States. It is long past due for the millions of American citizens living in Puerto Rico to get the representation that they deserve.”
March 2nd marked the 104th anniversary of the people of Puerto Rico obtaining U.S. citizenship.
The bill specifies that the voters of Puerto Rico will vote to ratify the decision of Congress. If Congress offers statehood, the entire Island will vote to accept statehood or not to do so. This is the same process used by Alaska and Hawaii, the most recently added states.
Gonzalez-Colon explained that she and her colleagues don’t want a new process. They will use the established process instead.
Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (D-NY) proposed last year that Puerto Rico should hold a constitutional assembly, a meeting of political leaders, to choose a status option for the Puerto Rican people.
However, a clear majority of Puerto Rico voters chose statehood in a direct vote in November 2020. Gonzalez-Colon says that the alternative proposal shows a lack of respect for Puerto Rico and a failure to honor the vote.
However, Governor Pierluisi said, “We don’t want for Congress to even give the impression that it is imposing its will on the people of Puerto Rico. That’s why this bill includes a ratification vote, so the people can vote after Congress lays out the terms of admission.”
This step was taken in both Hawaii and Alaska.
There are about 50 cosponsors for the bill at present. One, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), said, “Self-determination means respecting the people of Puerto Rico. When Puerto Ricans vote in a ballot box, we in Congress must respond to that vote.”
The list of cosponsors includes both Democrats and Republicans. Puerto Rico Statehood has been a bipartisan issue historically, and continues to have supporters on both sides of the aisle.
“This is not an issue of the Republican Party,” Gonzalez-Colon said,” This is not an issue of the Democratic Party. This is an issue of democracy, this is an issue of self-determination, this is an issue of the rights of American citizens living in Puerto Rico that need to be heard.”
The bill has not yet been published, but it appears to include reasons to support statehood for Puerto Rico, a process including ratification and proclamations, and a plan to elect representatives to Congress,
There is a specific process followed in Congress to receive and publish bills. Once the bill text is publicly available, Puerto Rico Report will share it.