Praise for appointment of Gretchen Sierra Zorita to White House US territories post
On April 11 the White House announced the appointment of Gretchen Sierra Zorita to the position of Deputy Director for Puerto Rico and the Territories in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. The position will coordinate with Congress to better address longstanding issues of importance to the millions of citizens and nationals living in U.S. territories. In taking up this role, Ms. Sierra Zorita is stepping down from her position on the Board of Directors for Equally American, which advocates for equality and representation for the 3.5 million citizens living in US territories.
News of the announcement prompted praise from Congressional Democrats and organizations like Equally American.
“The Biden administration’s choice to create this position and staff it with such an experienced, knowledgeable leader is admirable and deserves our heartfelt thanks,” Grijalva said. “The executive branch can improve the lives of millions of US citizens and nationals living in the territories by expanding access to federal programs that already benefit other Americans, helping to resolve Puerto Rico’s political status, and strengthening meaningful political representation. The Biden administration understands that we can’t claim to live up to American ideals as long as we treat millions of people as second-class citizens, and I look forward to working closely with Ms. Sierra Zorita to address these issues as soon as possible.”
“President Biden’s decision to appoint an Associate Director in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs with responsibility for the non-state areas of our nation is very welcome,” Sablan said. “The former President promised an executive-level Territory and Commonwealth Advisory Committee and a Special Assistant for territories and Commonwealths, but forgot those promises once in office. I look forward to working with new Associate Director Gretchen Sierra Zorita as the Biden administration implements the President’s commitment to making more federal resources available to underserved communities like those in the US insular areas.”
Neil Weare, President and Founder of Equally American stated that “[t]he creation of this new position in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs represents a significant shift towards inclusion and equality for citizens of the territories. President Biden has made an excellent choice – having someone of Gretchen’s knowledge and expertise in the White House will be a gamechanger for Puerto Rico and the territories.”
Ms. Sierra Zorita is a leading thought leader on federal issues that impact Puerto Rico and other territories. She has worked to bring attention in Washington, DC to issues affecting Puerto Ricans on both the islands and the mainland, and to draw connections between issues each of the territories face in common. In addition to her service on the Board of Equally American, Ms. Sierra Zorita has served leading roles with the National Puerto Rican Agenda, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda Puerto Rico Working Group, Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, and the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. Prior government service includes roles at the US Agency for International Development, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the US Government and Accountability Office, and the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Census and Population.
“We are excited for Gretchen as she takes on this important new role coordinating territorial policy at the White House,” Weare continued. “She has been an indispensable contributor to the work of Equally American through her Board service over the last three years. We could not be more proud of Gretchen, and look forward to working with her in her new role.”