Representative Darren Soto (D-FL) has introduced legislation that would call for the immediate admission of Puerto Rico as a new U.S. state.
“You can see the island’s colonial status is not working,” Soto was quoted as saying in the Washington Post. “It’s time to end the 120-year injustice of Puerto Rico being a colony.”
“This bill is about respecting democracy and equality in Puerto Rico,” Soto further explained in a press release. “The Puerto Rican people have spoken. It’s time for Congress to finally make Puerto Rico a state!”
Soto was joined by Puerto Rico’s non-voting Representative in Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR).
“For more than a century the people of Puerto Rico have been U.S. citizens, but has been denied the right to vote for the President and members of Congress, leaving us without representation in the federal government, which enact the laws that rule the land. Democracy and equality for American citizens is an issue of justice and civil rights,” Gonzalez-Colon said in a press release. “It will take the joint efforts of Democrats and Republicans dedicated to equality for all Americans, in both the House and Senate, to finally bring full democracy and equality to Puerto Rico. I will work with all Members to accomplish that for the people that I am privileged to represent.”
Governor Ricardo Rossello also expressed his support for the bill, saying, “Puerto Rico’s colonial status and unsustainable relationship with the federal government has gone on for over a century, even as our citizens have contributed to the growth, culture and social fabric of the United States, and stood shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens on battlefields around the globe and under our same flag,”
The voters of Puerto Rico have chosen statehood in the last two plebiscites, held in 2012 and 2017. Because of this, the new bill does not call for an additional vote on the Island. Anti-statehood leaders reiterated their rejection of both the referenda.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) suggested, according to El Nuevo Dia, that she might introduce an alternative bill requiring yet another plebiscite.
Reps. Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) have both expressed support of the new bill. Raskin, a Constitutional law professor explained, “Alexis de Tocqueville said that democracy is either expanding or it is contracting. It is time for American democracy to expand again. We need Puerto Rican statehood not only to defend the much-trampled rights and liberties of more than three million Americans living in Puerto Rico but to keep the trajectory of American democracy growing, vibrant and robust. In American history, we started with 13 states but Congress has since admitted 37 new states, overriding every manner of petty political objection to vindicate the principles of equal rights and inclusion. What a wonderful statement of American democracy it will be to the rest of the world when Puerto Rico enters the Union and becomes a full and equal member of the nation.”
Soto says that he will work on gaining support within the Natural Resources committee rather than reaching out for cosponsors immediately.
The text of the bill is available here.