Pierluisi: Puerto Ricans Living on Mainland Should Not Be Allowed to Vote on Island’s Status

On May 15, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D), a non-voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives, submitted the following bill to Congress:

 

PUERTO RICO STATUS RESOLUTION ACT

Full Text Below is a simple rendition of Congress’ official bill text.

1. Short title
This Act may be cited as the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act.

2. Findings and purpose

(a) Findings

Congress finds the following:

(1) In 1898, Puerto Rico became a United States territory and persons born in Puerto Rico have been granted United States citizenship by law since March 2, 1917.
(2) Puerto Rico has been granted authority over local matters that is similar to the authority that the several States possess, but Puerto Rico remains subject to the powers of Congress under the Territory Clause of the Constitution of the United States.
(3) The approximately 3,700,000 residents of Puerto Rico do not have a democratic form of government at the national level, because United States citizens residing in the territory are disenfranchised in the election for the President and the Vice President of the United States, are not represented in the United States Senate, and their one representative in the United States House of Representatives can only vote in committees of the United States House of Representatives.
(4) The Federal Government may—and often does—treat Puerto Rico and its residents unequally under Federal program, tax, and other laws relative to the several States and the District of Columbia and their residents.
(5) On November 6, 2012, the Government of Puerto Rico held a two-part referendum. The first question asked voters if Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of territorial status. Of the 1,798,987 voters who chose an option, 53.97 percent voted against continued territorial status.
(6) The second question asked voters to express their preference among the three possible alternatives to territorial status: statehood, independence, and nationhood in free association with the United States. Of the 1,363,854 voters who chose an option, 61.16 percent voted for statehood.
(7) The number of votes cast in favor of statehood exceeded the number of votes cast in favor of continued territorial status.
(b)Purpose
The purpose of this Act is to provide for a federally authorized ratification vote in Puerto Rico on the admission of Puerto Rico into the Union as a State and, if a majority of voters ratify Puerto Rico’s desire for statehood, to describe the steps that the President and Congress shall take to enable the admission of Puerto Rico as a State of the Union.
3. Ratification vote

The State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico is authorized to provide for a ratification vote on the admission of Puerto Rico into the Union as a State, in accordance with rules and regulations determined by the Commission, including qualifications for voter eligibility, with the following on the ballot:

“As a State:

(A) Puerto Rico would be permanently united to the other States of the Union.
(B) All provisions of the Constitution of the United States that apply to the States would apply to Puerto Rico.
(C) Individuals born in Puerto Rico would be United States citizens by virtue of the Constitution of the United States, instead of by virtue of laws of the United States.
(D) Puerto Rico would be treated equally with the other States in all Federal laws of general application.
(E) There would be a period of transition to statehood, during which equal treatment of Puerto Rico in program and tax laws would be phased in.
(F) Puerto Rico would be represented in the United States Senate by two Senators, in the United States House of Representatives by a number of Representatives in proportion to its share of the national population (and the number of Members of the House of Representatives would be increased by the same number), and for the election of the President and the Vice President of the United States by a number of votes in the Electoral College equal to the number of its Senators and Representatives.
(G) The Government of Puerto Rico, like the governments of the other States, would have permanent authority over all matters not delegated to the Federal Government or the people by the Constitution of the United States.

Do you want Puerto Rico to be admitted as a State of the United States? Yes__ No__”

4. Implementation

(a) Presidential action
If a majority of votes cast in the ratification vote held under section 3 are for the admission of Puerto Rico as a State of the Union, the President, not later than 180 days after the certification of the vote, shall submit to Congress legislation to admit Puerto Rico as a State of the Union on an equal footing with the several States in all respects, consistent with the terms of this Act.
(b) Legislative action
If a majority of votes cast in the ratification vote held under section 3 are for the admission of Puerto Rico as a State of the Union, this Act constitutes a commitment by Congress to act, through legislation, to admit Puerto Rico as a State of the Union on an equal footing with the several States in all respects, consistent with the terms of this Act.

Pierluisi made an appearance today on Univision’s “Al Punto” with Jorge Ramos to discuss the bill. Besides stating his case for the bill, Pierluisi did say the estimated 4 million Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland should have a say in the statehood bill, and that current Governor Alejandro García Padilla, who favors the island’s current commonwealth system, is not allowing the voice of the Puerto Rican people to be heard.

PRico

Here is the video in Spanish.

Pierluisi and Ramos spent considerable time on especially the criticisms of the bill. Members of Pierluisi’s own pro-statehood party, including former governor Carlos Romero Barceló, believe that the bill leaves it way too open to allow Puerto Ricans living on the mainland to vote in a final binding plebiscite. Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) believes that mainland Puerto Ricans should be allowed to vote.

This is what Pierluisi told Ramos, “The decision must be in the hands of Puerto Ricans living on the island, 3.7 million American citizens residing in Puerto Rico.”

Pierluisi also did not support Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), who believes the statehood bill is heavily biased towards a statehood option.

“In a democracy, at least in America, you vote where one resides. At the moment, one may consider whether Puerto Ricans in the diaspora could also express their views, but usually, what always happens is that you vote where you live.”

In the end, Pierluisi’s words were still very vague, and it is clear to us that this topic is no way near resolved, especially if Serrano and Gutiérrez are involved.

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