United States Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) was quoted yesterday as saying that he did not support statehood for Puerto Rico because the territory is a “colony.”
One of the representatives of the States of the U.S. who can govern Puerto Rico as they wish so long as they do not violate basic rights of residents, such as freedom of speech, gave the explanation when asked whether it was a contradiction for him to help lead the effort to give illegal aliens American citizenship while not supporting Puerto Ricans being treated equally with other citizens.
Puerto Rico’s status as a possession of the U.S. was one of three reasons that Gutierrez gave for rejecting the same equality and permanence for Puerto Ricans within the American political family that he says foreign citizens in the U.S. illegally should have.
A second reason was that “Puerto Rico is different” than the United States. He argued that the territory is part of Latin America, instead. Most of the illegal residents of the U.S. for whom Gutierrez advocates citizenship are Latin American.
The Congressman from Chicago, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico and said that “I’ve felt too American to be Puerto Rican and too Puerto Rican to be American” is one of more than 4.9 million people of Puerto Rican origin who enjoy the equality of statehood in the States. The number includes some 1.5 million people born in the territory.
Gutierrez additionally said that he does not support statehood for Puerto Rico because Puerto Ricans “have never petitioned for statehood.”
“Bring the petition and I will support it,” he asserted.
In fact, however, Puerto Rico petitioned the U.S. Congress and President of the United States for statehood a year ago. By a vote of 61.2% in a popular plebiscite held along with the 2012 general elections, the territory voted for Congress to act on making Puerto Rico a State as the preferred alternative to territory status over nationhood.
Following the law for the vote, the then Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuno, conveyed the request to Congress and President Obama. The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico also passed a formal petition for statehood based on Puerto Rico’s act of self-determination. It, too, was delivered to Congress and Obama.
Gutierrez, who says that he favors independence for Puerto Rico, has worked closely with Puerto Rico’s “Commonwealth” party against congressional legislation to authorize Puerto Ricans to determine their preference for the territory’s future status.
He was a leading, unsuccessful opponent of bills to resolve the question passed by the U.S. House in 1998 and 2010. His efforts included offering amendments that received few votes.
He is currently a vocal opponent of a House bill for an up-or-down vote on statehood in the territory that would trigger a requirement for a presidential statehood transition plan if the vote is in favor of statehood. Puerto Rico’s representative to the Federal government, Pedro Pierluisi and 125 other House Members sponsored the bill. Pierluisi, who also heads the insular statehood party, was the top vote getter in the territory’s 2012 elections.