Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY) released a statement in response to the omnibus bill passed by Congress, which provided marginal help for Puerto Rico in its unequal treatment under federal health law, but not the changes to the bankruptcy law that were passionately urged by the island’s leaders and encouraged by the White House.
“[T]his is not just an issue of political will or economic crisis,” Serrano said. “This situation, both on the island and in Congress, highlight the need to change Puerto Rico’s political status.”
Echoing a number of statements in the Senate and House hearings on Puerto Rico this year, Serrano continued:
The current colonial arrangement is, I believe, at the heart of the fiscal crisis on the island. Colonialism is what leads Puerto Rico to be treated inequitably under many federal programs. Colonialism is what leads its plight to be ignored in Congress. And colonialism will ensure that this situation will continue to repeat itself over and over again. While we will continue to debate and discuss the challenges facing Puerto Rico in Congress, the result of the current discussions are clear: the status must change.
Pedro Pierluisi, the Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico and the only representative of the Island in the legislature, expressed the same disappointment:
There are two good health-related provisions in this bill for Puerto Rico that I have worked hard to obtain. However, they are largely eclipsed by what is not in this bill—namely, any meaningful provision to help Puerto Rico address its economic and fiscal challenges. Leaders in Congress missed a major opportunity to do the right thing. I am deeply disappointed, but not discouraged. To the contrary, I am more determined than ever to fight until Congress fulfills its fundamental responsibility to the 3.5 million American citizens I represent.
Pierluisi also agreed with Serrano that the political status of Puerto Rico is the underlying cause of the fiscal problems in Puerto Rico:
Because Puerto Rico is a territory, Congress has nearly complete power over us. We rely on the goodwill of men and women representing the 50 states. Often, such goodwill is not forthcoming. And sometimes, like today, our treatment can only be described as shameful. To the people of Puerto Rico, I issue this challenge. If you, like me, are appalled by the way in which Puerto Rico is treated by the government of the nation to which we Puerto Ricans have given so much, including our blood, then work with me to end the political status that enables such treatment.”
Serrano also called on Puerto Ricans to make their voices heard, saying that “This fight has united the Puerto Rican Diaspora like never before. These efforts will be long remembered by millions of Puerto Ricans in Florida, New York, and elsewhere.”