Rep. José E. Serrano (D-NY) has announced that he will not run for reelection in 2020, following his diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease.
His colleagues in the House have spoken about his long service, his tenacity, and his dedication to human rights. Serrano is also known for his work for Puerto Rico, where he was born.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) said in a statement, “In serving the people of New York in Congress, José drew on his roots as a powerful advocate for Puerto Ricans, immigrants, and the most vulnerable living in American’s urban communities. He has been a champion for Puerto Ricans living on the island and in the fifty states, and he has been a vigorous supporter of self-determination for Puerto Rico.”
Puerto Rico is represented in Congress by a single individual with a symbolic vote. Representatives of States who support Puerto Rico are therefore particularly important for the Island.
Serrano’s devotion to the cause of self-determination for Puerto Rico is long-standing. His official website puts it like this:
On one issue in particular, Congressman Serrano has been a leading voice–self determination for Puerto Rico. A territory of the United States since 1898, Puerto Rico has always had a strained and often painful relationship with the United States. Congressman Serrano believes that this relationship, called territorial officially, is actually best described as ‘colonial.’ Because the U.S. Congress has complete control over the terms of the relationship, and also can interfere in Puerto Rico’s internal affairs, Congressman Serrano believes that any ability of Puerto Ricans to choose their own destiny is essentially denied. Therefore, he believes that the U.S. Congress must start the process of self determination, by setting forth the options that they would be able to accept should the Puerto Rican people chose one or another.
Congressman Serrano believes that among all the ideas for future status for Puerto Rico, only two are viable and non-colonial. He is indifferent between the two, which are either independence or statehood. He opposes and could not support any continuation of a colonial relationship. He often says that he is the member of a Puerto Rican political movement that has only one member–Congressman Serrano–because he does not favor any particular outcome of a status rearrangement, except anything colonial.
Serrano didn’t support the third option, remaining a territory, because it fell under the category of “anything colonial.” The “enhanced commonwealth” option is, in Serrano’s words, “a letter to Santa Claus.”
“[N]o one in Puerto Rico supports the present status,” Serrano explained in a Congressional hearing in 2007. “When they say they support commonwealth, they support a new commonwealth, which I call a letter to the Three Kings or a letter to Santa Claus. Because it says let me be a state, but let me be an independent nation; let me change, but not change.”
Rep. Serrano has been serving in Congress since 1990.