Earlier on Wednesday, Puerto Rico’s statehood commission held a press conference in Washington, D.C., the same day it “demanded to be seated in the United States House of Representatives and Senate as the legitimate lawmakers of America’s 51st state.” This is the press conference with the statehood commission, governor Ricardo Rosselló and resident commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, a non-voting delegate of Congress.
The government of Puerto Rico also shared this media release:
Washington, DC — Today, the members of Puerto Rico’s shadow Congressional delegation —five shadow U.S. Representatives and two shadow U.S. Senators— demanded to be seated in the United States House of Representatives and Senate as the legitimate lawmakers of America’s 51st state. The Commissioners, appointed by Governor Ricardo Rosselló and confirmed by the Puerto Rico legislature, presented their credentials to the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate.
In a 2017 political status plebiscite, 97% of Puerto Rican voters overwhelmingly supported statehood.
Puerto Rico has been a United States territory since 1898 when the islands were ceded by Spain to the United States. Its residents have been American citizens since 1917, and have proudly served and continue to serve in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Territories, unlike states, are not sovereign and are treated by the Constitution as possessions of Congress. Puerto Rico residents, regardless of place of birth, cannot vote in Congressional or presidential elections. Its lack of political muscle and representation results in disenfranchisement and inequality with regards to mainland Americans.
The Puerto Rico shadow Congressional delegation mirrors the process by which the former Territory of Tennessee petitioned and attained statehood. Tired of delays and Congress’ lack of interest, the people of Tennessee sent a shadow Congressional delegation to Washington, DC. to demand recognition and statehood for the territory. In 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state of the Union. Since then, six former territories have successfully carried out similar plans, the last one being Alaska in 1959.
“The people of Puerto Rico twice went to the polls and expressed an overwhelming support for Puerto Rican statehood. The citizens’ support for statehood increased from 61% in the 2012 plebiscite to 97% in 2017. It is our moral imperative to demand Congress recognize 3.4 million disenfranchised Americans. It is time to end Puerto Ricans’ second-class citizenship, and statehood is the only guarantee for that to happen,” said current Governor Ricardo Rosselló.
In a historic speech on the House floor, Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón —Puerto Rico’s sole, non-voting representative in the Congress— introduced the shadow delegation to the nation’s legislators.
“The island overwhelmingly voted for statehood in 2012 by a margin of 61% and 97% in June of last year. That’s the request that brought me here, that’s what brings the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, the Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera-Schatz, House Speaker Johnny Mendez, and other officials that have come to witness today’s historic introduction of the Puerto Rico Shadow Delegation to this Congress. That delegation will demand that the United States recognize the will of Puerto Rico to become a state. This long-awaited action is in accord with the precedents set forth by the Tennessee Plan adopted by the territories of Tennessee, Michigan, Oregon, California, Iowa, Kansas, and Alaska, which followed a similar path to their eventual admission as states,” said Cong. González-Colón.
Former governor Carlos Romero Barceló (D) and current National Committeewoman of the Republican Party of Puerto Rico Zoraida Fonalledas (R) serve as Senators while former governor Pedro Rosselló González (D), former governor Luis Fortuño (R), former president of the Senate of Puerto Rico and current State Chair of the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico Charles Rodríguez (D), former Chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship Alfonso Aguilar (R), and baseball Hall of Famer Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez (I) serve as Representatives.
Shadow representative Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez could not attend today’s activities and asked to be excused due to professional commitments, nevertheless, expressed his support for the Statehood Commission.
“I fully support Puerto Rico’s Shadow Congressional Delegation – also known as the Statehood Commission – and regret not being able to be alongside my colleagues today,” said Mr. Rodríguez.
The delegation will continue to lobby Congress for Puerto Rican statehood and will inform the mainland public of the need to end a 100-year old colonial territory within America’s borders.
Resident commissioner González-Colón also spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives:
This page (and its founder) have written A LOT about this issue for the last few years, and we just want to call attention to these two points today: 1) the statehood claims in the media lack serious context and the federal government has never formally recognized any vote, especially last year’s vote; and 2) this whole Hurricane María thing, which as of today, has led to 40% of the island’s population still lacking power.
Is this the time for a partisan statehood push? Who knows, but it is also interesting to note that the ONLY TWO U.S. English-language political media outlets to write about Wednesday’s Washington events (as of this posting) were The Washington Examiner and The Washington Times.
This is a copy of a letter I recently sent to Senator Chuck Schumer of NY. My family and I have been supporters since his days in the NY State Assembly.
February 16, 2021
The Honorable Charles Schume
Majority Leader, US Senate
RE: Puerto Rico: Final Resolution of Political Status “Waiting for a consensus”
Dear Senator Schumer:
Congratulations on being elected Majority Leader. You recently announced that D.C. statehood is a priority for democrats in this session of Congress. I am writing to ask that you add the 3.2 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to that priority list.
You told Joy Reid of MSNBC on September 30, 2020 that you would “love to make Puerto Rico a state” if Puerto Ricans vote for it. On November 3, 2020, they did 52% to 47%. Then you appeared to backtrack on your pledge, according to a December 19, 2020 story in El Nuevo Dia, when you said that you were “waiting for a consensus to develop.”
In April 1963, a group of white ministers in Birmingham, Alabama, pleaded with Dr. King to delay civil rights demonstrations in their city. His thoughtful and famous response included the following:
“I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim . . . when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society . . . when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”
Hundreds of people have been campaigning for permanent decolonization for the Island for 20 years. With all of these realities in mind and Dr. King’s words in my heart, “there comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”
Each day that members of the Roman family living in Arecibo and Ponce, Puerto Rico, and their fellow Americanc citizens are forced to live under the unequal and undemocratic status as an unincorporated U.S. territory prolongs their suffering.
Your track record on helping the Island to rebuild after hurricanes and fighting for parity in federal social programs are unmatched.
Please give the Island’s political status the same urgency that you have offered to D.C.
You can do this by supporting a Senate version of H.R. 4901: Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Act, or at a minimum, help us enact a federally-sponsored status consultation for the Island between the only two status options that lead to permanent decolonization, statehood or independence.
Can you count on your support?
Thanks and best wishes.
[…] after a statehood admission bill was formally presented to Congress in March. Unlike the previous shadow Congress of 2018 —which went nowhere and essentially self-imploded once Rosselló resigned in 2019— this new […]