On Monday, United States Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the Puerto Rico Status Act (S3231). The legislation would authorize a federally sponsored vote in Puerto Rico to set the U.S. territory on a path towards full democracy by either becoming a U.S. state or an independent country, with or without a Compact of Free Association arrangement like the U.S. has with several small Pacific Island nations.
The bill is the Senate Companion of House bill H.R. 2757, which was introduced in April by the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), along with Representatives Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Darren Soto (D-FL), former House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), and the Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR). The proposal is also supported by Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi (D).
The new Senate bill is identical to its House companion. The plebiscite authorized in the proposal would be held in Puerto Rico, and Congress would commit to respecting the outcome of the vote.
On the particularly tricky issue of U.S. citizenship, a related briefing document explains: “[C]urrent law provides several scenarios for persons to be U.S. citizens when born outside of the United States to parents who are U.S. citizens. However, the new nation of Puerto Rico would be unique among foreign nations in that it would already be populated overwhelmingly by U.S. citizens. Keeping these default rules would prevent Puerto Rico from becoming a nation that is populated by a majority of its own citizens. The bill’s sponsors agree that causing the nation of Puerto Rico to remain indefinitely with a population that is the majority the citizens of the United States would not be in the interest of the nation of Puerto Rico or in the interest of the United States. Accordingly, the bill would limit some of the scenarios in which persons born in the nation of Puerto Rico would be U.S. citizens at birth.”
The bill also provides details on the way that the vote will be conducted, the educational program preparing for the vote, and the process of transition to the eventual new political status.
The Puerto Rico Status Act has received bipartisan support in Puerto Rico from the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, the Republican Party of Puerto Rico, the Young Democrats of Puerto Rico, and the Puerto Rico Young Republican Federation.
Veterans groups endorsing the bill include Veterans for Puerto Rico Statehood Task Force, Veteranos con Puerto Rico, and the American Latino Veterans Association.
Other supporting groups include the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Puerto Rico Statehood Council, Puerto Rico Escogio Estadidad, National Puerto Rico Equality Coalition, Igualdad Futuro Seguro, Instituto Misión Estadista, Puerto Rico Star Project, and Young Professionals for Puerto Rico Statehood.
Co-sponsors as of this writing include 19 Democrats and one Independent senator:
- Sen. Tammy Baldwin [D-WI]
- Sen. Michael F. Bennet [D-CO]
- Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D-CT]
- Sen. Cory A. Booker [D-NJ]
- Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. [D-PA]
- Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto [D-NV]
- Sen. John Fetterman [D-PA]
- Sen. John W. Hickenlooper [D-CO]
- Sen. Ben Ray Lujan [D-NM]
- Sen. Edward J. Markey [D-MA]
- Sen. Jeff Merkley [D-OR]
- Sen. Christopher Murphy [D-CT]
- Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA]
- Sen. Alex Padilla [D-CA]
- Sen. Jack Reed [D-RI]
- Sen. Bernard Sanders [I-VT]
- Sen. Brian Schatz [D-HI]
- Sen. Chris Van Hollen [D-MD]
- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI]
- Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR]
Watch a video of the press conference announcing the introduction of the Senate bill.