The people of Puerto Rico voted last November to join the Union as its 51st state. It is time to act on their desire. Our sole member of Congress, resident commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi (D), filed House Resolution 2000, an admission bill in accordance with the People’ will expressed through the ballot.
The time is now. You have the power to change things up…seize it.
The Republican Party is in the middle of a tug war for its ‘political soul’. GOP’s leaders understand that their old grand coalition of white males is getting older and smaller with the passing of each electoral cycle. There’s real need to appeal to a broader electoral base if the party of Abraham Lincoln wants to retake the White House in 2016.
What is the GOP to do? For a start, its needs to cater to the only electoral block that is growing exponentially: Latinos and Hispanics. In 2004, George W. Bush won 44 percent of Hispanics. Four years later, John McCain, the author of an immigration reform bill, took 31 percent of Hispanics. And last year, Mitt Romney captured only 27 percent of Hispanics. If this trend continues, no Republican will be living on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January 2017.
Puerto Ricans are the second largest Hispanic group in the United States behind those of Mexican descent.
The political muscle of the Puerto Ricans in the states is at an all-time high. Last July House Speaker John Boehner (R.,-Ohio) refused to allow Congress to vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill and earned the Republican Party a 71 percent disapproval rating among registered Latino voters, according to a poll conducted by Latino Decisions, which conducts political opinion research and America’s Voices, a lobbying organization for immigration reform.
The same poll suggested that 39 percent of Latino voters said they would be more likely to vote for their Republican congressional candidate if they supported a comprehensive reform bill, one of the issues closer to the Hispanic community which essentially grants ‘statehood’ status to the almost 11 million of illegal immigrants currently living in the mainland. That’s basically what the 3.8 American citizens in Puerto Rico want and voted for.
This is why the Puerto Rican community could alter the course of the presidential election. The battle ground states of Florida and Ohio will be keys in 2016. The vote of Puerto Ricans will be important for the GOP candidate in both cases, but most especially in the Sunshine State, where there are close to 900,000 Puerto Ricans—about a third of whom live and work in Central Florida.
The past two decades saw a shift in Puerto Rican migration as thousands flocked to the Florida for opportunities that disappeared during the island's protracted economic downturn caused by more than a century of territorial rule.
Because of the sheer growth of the community, Republicans leaders, including Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), will pay close attention to their wishes. Plain and simple, the GOP needs the Puerto Rican vote and they will be more than willing to accommodate their request.
This is why we need you to act. Puerto Ricans have electoral power -- let's use it. Make sure that the Congress understands that there was a democratic and free process in the Island which resulted in statehood gathering 54 percent of the popular vote That there’s a bill pending consideration which ratifies that result and grants the people’s wish.
This time, Republicans leaders will listen. They need you. You have the power to change things up…seize it.
Aponte-Hernández is a former Speaker and current member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives.