Take Puerto Rico from limbo to statehood

On November 6, 2012, the American citizens who live in Puerto Rico voted to end more than a century of political limbo by discarding the territorial status in favor of statehood. The vote was clear, 54 percent of the people rejected the current state of affairs, while a robust 61 percent chose to join the Union as its newest state.

This referendum was conducted according to the guidelines set forward by the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico.

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On May 15, 2013, our sole member of Congress, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, filed House Resolution (HR) 2000, an admission bill in accordance with the results of the 2012 referendum.

I know how slow the legislative process can be in Congress. As a former speaker and current member of the Puerto Rico House of Representative, I have been engaged in the day-to-day operations for more than a decade. Still, there are certain issues that can’t wait and the case of the political status of our island is one of those.

Enough is enough. We have played by the rules and now it is time to see concrete action. Congress should and need to make the issue of Puerto Rico one of its highest priorities during the next few weeks.

For the first part of the twentieth century the affairs of the American citizens living in Puerto Rico were just a blip on Congress’ radar. Two major military conflicts and the advent of the Cold War pushed the issue to the backburner.

The problem of our status gained steam following the late 1960s when political forces in favor of statehood as the final solution started to assert themselves. By the 1990s, the people of the Island were clamoring for a change in the current condition. The process culminated last year with a request to become the 51st state.

Congress has balked at the process despite having HR 2000 on its desk, a bill that was sponsored by 125 members of the House of Representatives, both Republicans and Democrats.

We believe in the democratic process. It’s the cornerstone of our great Republic. That’s why it’s time to act. The almost 3.6 million American citizens on the island have the right to a debate and enactment of their will. This is not an immigration matter; it’s a case of acting on an electoral result. It has been a year since the people spoke.

I urge each and every member of both houses of Congress, to set aside their differences and start working on HR 2000 now in order to end more than a century of territorial rule. I request that this Congress admit Puerto Rico as a state during its current legislative session. Enough is enough.

You, Congressman or Congresswoman, have to make this issue an urgent one. I have sent letters to all members stating the results of the 2012 status referendum, along with information regarding HR 2000. You have the information, you have the ability to act. It's time to do it.

Aponte-Hernandez is a former speaker and current member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives.