Resident Commissioner González-Colón introduces legislation for statehood vote in Puerto Rico
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (NPP, R) of Puerto Rico, alongside Representatives José Serrano (D) of New York, Darren Soto (D) of Florida, Don Young (R) of Alaska, Stephanie Murphy (D) of Florida, Rob Bishop (R) of Utah and 40 other members of Congress, introduced bipartisan legislation to begin Puerto Rico’s admission process as a state of the Union.
By requiring a statehood yes-or-no vote on the islands, this legislation follows the same precedent established for the admission process of Alaska and Hawaii. The Puerto Rico legislature, however, would not have to wait for congressional action on the bill. The vote is set to take place during the next general election in November 2020.
During the press conference announcing the bill’s introduction, Resident Commissioner González-Colón was joined by US Representatives José Serrano, Rob Bishop, Don Young, Stephanie Murphy, and Donna Shalala (D); Mayors María “Mayita” Meléndez (NPP, D) of Ponce and Rosachely Rivera (NPP) of Gurabo; territorial senator Miguel Laureano (NPP); territorial representatives José Enrique “Quiquito” Meléndez (NPP, R), José Aponte (NPP) and Eddie Charbonier (NPP); as well as “Shadow Senator” and Co-Chair of the Puerto Rico Statehood Commission, Zoraida Fonalledas (NPP, R) and former Puerto Rico governor and member of Puerto Rico Statehood Commission, Luis Fortuño (NPP, R).
The bipartisan bill, cosponsored by 45 Members of Congress, seeks to enable a federally-sponsored vote in which the people of Puerto Rico would have the opportunity to reaffirm their support for statehood, as expressed in two previous status plebiscites in 2012 and 2017. It would establish the same process under which Hawaii and Alaska became states, followed by the implementation of measures to guide the transition process towards the islands’ eventual admission as a state of the Union.
“This historic bill places us on a path towards the political equality that our people deserve. The American citizens of Puerto Rico will have the opportunity to participate in a federally-sponsored vote and be asked the following question: ‘Should Puerto Rico be admitted as a State of the Union, yes or no?’. This is similar to what happened in Alaska and Hawaii, which is what ultimately makes this legislation different,” explained González-Colón.
“It is time to end Puerto Rico’s colonial status, which allows for the discrimination of 3.2 million American citizens residing in the island. This legislation will allow the people of Puerto Rico to vote in a statehood yes-or-no plebiscite. If the people of Puerto Rico vote in favor of statehood, they will have full voting representation and equal treatment in all federal programs. The time for action is now and that is why I am sponsoring the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act,” said Representative Serrano.
The bill delineates a process consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, including Public Law 113-76, which funds a nonpartisan voter education process and a plebiscite that would resolve Puerto Rico’s political status.
If the people of Puerto Rico vote in favor of becoming a state, the President of the United States would be required, no later than 30 months after the vote, to issue a proclamation admitting the islands as a state and beginning the transition process.
The details surrounding the transition process, as well as the necessary corrective actions, will be addressed through the appropriate legislative and administrative channels once the people reaffirm their support for statehood.
Remarks in support of the legislation
Attendees at the bill’s unveiling issued several statements in support of the piece of legislation:
“The people of Puerto Rico have voted twice for Statehood,” said Representative Darren Soto. “I am proud to work with Commissioner Gonzalez-Colon to make their voices be heard in Washington.”
“With Alaska being the second-youngest state in the nation, I am deeply familiar with the deliberations and debate involved when deciding whether or not to pursue statehood,” said Representative Don Young. “Although federal law applies in Puerto Rico, its 3.2 million US citizens cannot participate in national elections, cannot vote for president, and do not have full representation in Congress. I am proud to be supporting this legislation to provide a plebiscite with the assistance from the US Department of Justice and create a pathway to statehood. I have always been a supporter of the island’s right to self-determination, and this bill empowers Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico faces many issues, including economic difficulty and the ongoing hurricane recovery efforts. Ultimately, Congress must consider admitting Puerto Rico to the Union, but in the meantime, I will continue doing everything in my power to help Puerto Rico overcome the difficult obstacles they currently face.”
“For more than 120 years, Puerto Rico’s status as a US territory has deprived island residents of democracy and equality,” said Representative Stephanie Murphy. “The best path forward is for Puerto Rico to hold a fair, federally-sponsored vote on whether it wants to become a state. I hope the people of Puerto Rico confirm they support statehood and, if they do, I will work across party lines to ensure Congress respects their wishes.”
“Rep. González Colón’s introduction of this statehood bill is an important step in the continued conversation about the future of the island. I commend the Resident Commissioner for her unwavering support for a stable and vibrant Puerto Rico.” – Representative Rob Bishop.
“Statehood is not merely a political issue. It is about civil rights, equality, and social justice for millions of American citizens. We will always support efforts to speed up this justice. Hurricane Maria is the best evidence of the urgency behind the need to achieve equal treatment for all Puerto Ricans.” – Maria “Mayita” Meléndez Altieri, Mayor of Ponce.
“I am pleased to stand beside the Resident Commissioner in this effort to achieve statehood. This bill will give Puerto Ricans an opportunity to reiterate their desire to achieve equality and thus guarantee their equal rights. On the other hand, it is always good to remind members of Congress that the Island’s current status puts us at a disadvantage when compared to the rest of the nation’s citizens.” – Rosachely Rivera Santana, Mayor of Gurabo.
“Every action that helps end Puerto Rico’s colonial status once and for all, has to be supported.” – José Aponte, Puerto Rico At-Large Territorial Representative
“We support our Resident Commissioner’s initiative to introduce legislation in Congress that would enable us to decide our political status. It is time to resolve our colonial situation and achieve the equality to which the great majority aspires. This effort from our representative in Congress is a step forward in this fight that our previous leaders pursued for many years. Resolving Puerto Rico’s colonial status is a step forward that deserves all of our support. We fully endorse this process and, together with our leadership, are committed to lead efforts to carry the message about the benefits and advantages of voting in favor of statehood ” – Miguel Laureano Correa, Territorial Senator for the Humacao District.
“I want to thank Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón for continuing to take steps in the right direction. The introduction of this legislation keeps the Puerto Rico status debate alive in Congress. Our people want statehood, and they expressed it at the polls. Statehood is not something that is just given, we have to fight for it and many Puerto Ricans have paid with the ultimate sacrifice for their right to equality.” – Jose “Quiquito” Melendez, At-Large Territorial Representative
“We appreciate the action taken by our Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer González-Colón, in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico through the introduction of this bill. The status issue impacts all of us, and the underlying inequality of our present condition prevents us from enjoying the same benefits as our fellow citizens in the States. A statehood yes-or-no vote will help ratify the choice made by 61.16% of voters in 2012 and 97.13% in 2017, which represent the largest percentage obtained by a status option in any of the plebiscites conducted on the Island since 1967. We should continue fighting to achieve Puerto Rico’s admission as the 51st State and thus ensure we enjoy the same benefits and responsibilities as our counterparts in the 50 States.” – Eddie Charbonier, Territorial Representative for the 1st District of San Juan
“It is a historic moment in the fight for the equality of Puerto Ricans. This legislation presented today by our [Resident Commissioner] Jenniffer González[-Cólon] constitutes a new chapter in this epic struggle of our movement. The time has come for Puerto Ricans to achieve the same rights and duties as our fellow citizens in all 50 states.” – Zoraida Fonalledas, “Shadow Senator” and Co-Chair of the Puerto Rico Statehood Commission.