Democrat Rep. Soto Introduces New Bipartisan Puerto Rico Statehood Bill

Mar 28, 2019
10:58 am

On Thursday morning, Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) led a group of legislators to introduce a new bill that calls for Puerto Rico to become the 51 state of the Union. At a press conference on Capitol Hill, the Florida Democrat, who is of Puerto Rican descent, talked about the 2019 Puerto Rico Admission Act, the latest version of a statehood bill for the U.S. territory. Puerto Rico governor and pro-statehood leader Ricardo Rosselló (D) was also at the press conference, along with Republican Resident Commissioner Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón (a non-voting member of Congress), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). Puerto Rico Senate Majority Leader Carmelo Ríos also attended.

“This bill is about respecting democracy and equality in Puerto Rico. Our historic legislation will finally end over 120 years of colonialism and provide full rights and representation to over 3.2 million Americans,” Soto said. “We have seen time and time again that colonial status is simply not working. Look no further than the abysmal Hurricane Maria recovery efforts and the draconian PROMESA law to prove this point all too well. The Puerto Rican people have spoken. It’s time for Congress to finally make Puerto Rico a state.”

The bill, known as the 2019 Puerto Rico Admission Act, is being presented to “set forth the terms for the admission of the territory of Puerto Rico as a State of the Union.”

A draft of the complete bill, which was provided to Latino Rebels by Rep. Soto’s office, is below:

The language in this new bill is somewhat different from the 2018 Puerto Rico Admission Act, another bipartisan bill which González-Colón presented last year. That bill never got to a full House vote.,

The Soto bill did refer to the results of the 2017 non-binding plebiscite. Despite the 97% support, only 23% of Puerto Ricans voted and total vote for statehood was the lowest plebiscite number for statehood since 1967.

Nonetheless, Soto represents parts of Central Florida and this statehood push from an area where Puerto Rican political power continues to grow is a significant moment.

There is no clear indication if this latest bill will get to a House vote. Last week, for example, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, told Latino Rebels Radio that there is no political will from the Republican White House and Republican-led Senate for a statehood push.

The Trump White House has never been clear about its position on statehood, and given his latest comments about Puerto Rico, which earned condemnation from Rosselló, it appears that for now, this latest bill won’t get any traction, and that the issue of Puerto Rico’s status will be on hold until after the 2020 election.

“Equality for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico is the biggest civil rights issue in the United States today. Puerto Rico’s colonial status and unsustainable relationship with the federal government has gone on for over a century, even as our citizens have contributed to the growth, culture and social fabric of the United States, and stood shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens on battlefields around the globe and under our same flag. We urge all members of Congress to support this legislation and join in our quest to achieve equal treatment for the over 3 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico,” Rosselló said on Wednesday.

The following are some live tweets and reactions to the Thursday press conference:

 

***

Julio Ricardo Varela is founder and publisher of Latino Rebels, part of Futuro Media. He tweets from @julito77.