More Than 80 Progressive Groups, Including National Urban League and Indivisible, Send Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act Letter to Schumer and Pelosi

Mar 4, 2021
8:00 AM

(AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo, File)

A March 3 letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supporting the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2020 was signed by more than 80 progressive organizations —including the National Urban League and Indivisible— and was sent to Latino Rebels on Thursday morning.

The letter was dated the day after Puerto Rico statehood advocates formally introduced a bipartisan Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act of 2021 to the House.

In the letter to Schumer and Pelosi, the progressive organizations said that “Progressives across the country are closely following current debates about Puerto Rico. As you know, there are different opinions about how to resolve its colonial status. However, it is only Puerto Ricans who should have the authority and right to decide the future of Puerto Rico. To date, there has not been a fair, transparent, and federally binding process for Puerto Ricans to determine their political status. It is high time for that to change and that is why we urge you to support the right to a self-determination process that is fair and inclusive of all non-territorial options.”

Besides the National Urban League and Indivisible, other national supporters of the letter include the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Center for Popular Democracy, Power 4 Puerto Rico, Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora, Our Revolution,  Union of Concerned Scientists, Hedge Clippers, Faith in Action and Diáspora en Resistencia.

Other supporters represent organizations across several states and Puerto Rico, including CHISPA Florida, the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the Puerto Rican Agenda, Make the Road NV, Make the Road NJ, Make the Road New York, Make the Road PA, Black Lives Matter Greater New York, Action NC and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s. Several of these organizations are known for their work in racial, social and immigrant justice.

“While some may argue that the matter of Puerto Ricans’ opinion on political status was settled by the results of a referendum administered during the November 3, 2020 election, that is not the case for two reasons,” the letter said. “Firstly, only 54.72% of registered voters participated in the referendum, rendering the small margin by which a yes to statehood won (52.52%) not decisive. Secondly, the referendum —a yes or no vote on statehood— was not binding, did not include a transition plan or an educational campaign on the consequences of the vote, and was not inclusive of other political status options. This is not a substitute for the deliberate process envisioned by the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act, through which democratically elected members of a status convention consult with a congressional commission on creating definitions and transition plans for different status options, with Puerto Ricans ultimately deciding their political fate through a final vote.”

The Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act, which was submitted to the House last year by Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The act, if passed, would “prompt Puerto Rico’s Legislature to create a Status Convention whose delegates would be elected by Puerto Rican voters. This body would develop a long-term solution for Puerto Rico’s status, be that statehood, independence, free association or any option other than the current territorial arrangement,” Velázquez and Ocasio-Cortez wrote last year. A new version of the self-determination bill was expected to be reintroduced by the end of February.

During the introduction of the statehood bill on Tuesday, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón —a non-voting member of Congress— acknowledged that Congressional leaders like Schumer do not favor a statehood bill. González-Colón also said that she has not spoken with Pelosi about the statehood bill.

“I personally don’t expect any of those leaders to support statehood for Puerto Rico,” González-Colón. “I have not spoken with Speaker Pelosi, but I did speak with other leaders in the House leadership and they do support statehood for Puerto Rico.”

While Pelosi has not formally responded to the statehood bill, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) expressed his support for the bill.

The letter by progressives to Schumer and Pelosi noted that they are supporting the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act for the following reasons: “First, it centers the people of Puerto Rico as the main protagonists of their own destiny. Second, it outlines a thoughtful yet pragmatic plan to develop a list of non-territorial options and transition plans. Third, it would facilitate a thoroughly democratic mechanism for the public selection of those options. Fourth, and most importantly, it has the growing support of members of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the U.S. and among a cross-section of Puerto Rican society in the island.”

“This is the time to usher in a new relationship between the United States and the people of Puerto Rico. The colonization of Puerto Rico is a shameful part of this country’s history. We have an opportunity to rectify this reality and we hope to work closely with you to this end,” the letter added.

Here is a copy of the complete letter:

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