The Extended Congressional Delegation for Puerto Rico, a group of Puerto Rican lobbyists organized by the Puerto Rico Statehood Council, has announced its plans to make a second effort to pressure Congress to grant statehood to the U.S. colony, according to online newspaper NotiCel.
Dubbed “the second taking of Congress” after a similar campaign in 2013 followed a 2012 non-binding plebiscite, the new initiative is headed by former Puerto Rico governor Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló. The ex-governor was forced to resign in July of 2019 following a scandal in which leaked Telegram messages showed him using homophobic and misogynistic language against New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and joking about shooting then-San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. The messages also revealed Rosselló’s intent to institute a network of “trolls” to go after members of the press, politicians, and anyone who opposed his administration.
According to the Puerto Rico Statehood Council press release, the delegation plans to gather supporters from across the United States and Puerto Rico on February 28 and March 1 to push statehood through Congress.
“We’ll have working sessions with certain members of Congress and will bring the message that Puerto Rico wishes to be fully admitted as a state in the Union,” said Norma Santiago, a delegate from Maryland. “We will focus on the members of the Natural Resources Committee, which has the status initiatives before their evaluation.”
The House Committee on Natural Resources, which oversees U.S. colonial territories, is currently considering two bills regarding the political status of Puerto Rico: the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act (H.R. 1522) and the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act (H.R. 2070).
“The power to talk directly with my member of Congress about an issue as important as this one is fundamental for the issue to be on their radar,” said Roberto Delgado, a delegate from Virginia. “I want my Congressmember to understand that if they don’t support the means to give the option for statehood to Puerto Rico, they do not have my vote.”
Rosselló is currently part of a “shadow” congressional delegation elected in 2021 after the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP) pursued legislative steps to the non-binding 2020 plebiscite results, where statehood won, 53%-47%.
Unlike the previous shadow Congress of 2018 —which went nowhere and essentially self-imploded once Rosselló resigned in 2019— this new 2021 shadow Congress was elected, even if elected by less than 5% of Puerto Rico’s electorate. These new shadow members might or might not get paid a salary by the government of Puerto Rico.
“It’s our understanding that the optimal window will open in March to discuss this type of issue in Congress,” said Gabriel López, a current delegate from Pennsylvania. “We will be ready to defend H.R. 1522 or any consensus bill that offers a binding process of statehood.”