Reps. Velázquez, González-Colón Find Consensus in Puerto Rico Status Bill

May 18, 2022
7:23 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR) tell Latino Rebels that, despite their opposing perspectives on Puerto Rico’s status question, there are at least two areas of common ground driving the negotiations on a consensus bill.

Negotiations over a consensus bill to determine Puerto Rico’s future status have sought to bring together two camps: those that support the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, and those that support the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act.

Representing the statehood position at the negotiating table are House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Darren Soto (D-FL), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and González-Colón.

Representing the self-determination position are two New York Democrats of Puerto Rican descent —Velázquez and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)— and Mexican-American Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources that overseas Puerto Rican affairs.

“There’s been some positive work, as you know,” Hoyer said in a hallway interview with Latino Rebels on Tuesday. “Ms. Velázquez and Ms. Colón have been working together. I think they’ve been working productively and I’m hoping that we’ll have some progress.”

After speaking with Hoyer, Latino Rebels followed up with Velázquez and González-Colón to ask about their negotiating priorities in the consensus bill.

Both Puerto Rican lawmakers tell Latino Rebels that a top priority is, whatever process emerges from the consensus bill, that it be binding.

“I think it should be binding. I think that’s the first one,” González-Colón said on Tuesday. “Second, non-territorial options. I think those two things need to be in any deal that is proposed.”

“What we’re proposing,” Hoyer explained, “is that it will be self-executing. In other words, if it prevails, it will happen. It won’t just be advisory.”

Both Velázquez and González-Colón also agree that the consensus bill should result in a non-territorial status—either statehood, on the one hand, or some form of free association or independence, on the other. At the moment, Puerto Rico is an “unincorporated territory” of the United States, or a colony, so both lawmakers essentially support decolonization.

Beyond those two shared priorities, the positions held by Velázquez and González-Colón differ widely.

Velázquez wants Puerto Ricans to retain U.S. citizenship, even if the island chooses to become an independent nation or take on a free-associated status.

“You cannot take away citizenship, right?” Velázquez said on Wednesday. “Doesn’t matter if you move to another place. You will continue to be a citizen.”

Velázquez also wants a stipulation included requiring that a status option win by a simple majority —50 percent plus one— and, should Puerto Rico choose not to become a state but instead opt for free association or independence, that the islands be given “economic support” for such a transition.

González-Colón, on the other hand, wants Puerto Rico to be a state, period.

“I support statehood,” she said Tuesday. “People of the island voted for statehood in 2020 and 2012. So, I mean, that’s my perspective, but not necessarily what’s the compromise bill.”

Statehood, of course, implies full citizenship in the United States, a status Puerto Ricans already enjoy but with limited representation in Congress and fewer benefits than those enjoyed by their fellow U.S. citizens residing in the 50 states.

“Ultimately the people of Puerto Rico are going to decide, and the key is making sure they know what they’re voting on and that, if they vote, it will make a difference,” Hoyer said.

Sources tell Latino Rebels that Hoyer is working behind the scenes on a midday press conference for Thursday featuring all of the negotiating parties to announce a framework for the consensus bill.

“We are making progress,” Velázquez said Wednesday. “And I think that we’re going to get where we need to get.”


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports