Congress must put Puerto Rico on a path toward statehood, it’s long overdue

This week, our Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer González, will present a bill in the House of Representatives that paves the way for Congress to grant statehood to the United States Territory of Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony since the end of the Spanish-War of 1898. This will be a landmark in the history of our nation.

It has been nearly 60 years since Congress has acted on an admission bill. The time has come to do it again, to show the rest of the world that America is still the place where dreams can come true, where all U.S. citizens are treated equally, no matter where they live.

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We need this Congress to act on the will of the people of the island who voted, free and democratically in 2012, then again last year, in favor of statehood for the territory.

The political limbo in which we live in since the end of the 19th century has caused an economic stagnation not seen since in any U.S. jurisdiction.

The lack of tools to improve the fiscal situation, stemming from the colonial nature of our political relationship with the U.S. has resulted in a near unprecedent meltdown in America.

Congress must take responsibility for the dire situation in which nearly 3.3 million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico are in right now. A massive government debt that tops the $72,000 million mark, the most prolonged recession in the western world, which began in late 2005 and has yet to end, and the lack of opportunities for our people are just a few factors that have resulted from the inaction of past Congress.

There are simply no magic solutions to solve the matter, there’s only one road to take: equality, statehood.

Congress must provide the island the tools to move forward, to jump start its economy and to control the massive and historic migration wave that, if left unchecked, will thwart any recovery effort.

For the past few years, Puerto Ricans have demanded Congress act and nothing tangible has occurred. This needs to change. This must be the year that both, the House of Representatives and the Senate, act to bring a lifeline to Puerto Rico. This has to be the year that Congress will grant the island its path towards statehood: anything less will be unacceptable.

The move for statehood has gained unprecedent support in recent years.

Every time I visit Washington to meet with members of Congress, I receive the same message: “Puerto Rico has spent nearly 120 years and American territory. That’s long enough.”

Another factor in the growing support for statehood has been the large number of Puerto Ricans now living in the mainland. For example, in Florida, a key state in the race for the White House, the statehooders are a force to be reckoned with. Orange County alone is home to more than 180,000 Puerto Ricans.

Even media outlets, not only in the U.S., but also in Europe and Asia as well, have consistently reported about the growing influence of statehood for the island. It’s no more a matter of “what if”, it’s just “when when will it be.”

To those representatives and senators who for years have supported the admission of Puerto Rico into our great nation as an equal partner, your patience is paying off immensely. The statehood movement is more robust and stronger than ever.

To those who are yet to decide, I will give you a simple reason: this is a just cause.

I urge every member of Congress to support this new effort, to make history, to make Puerto Rico our nation’s 51st state.

Carlos ‘Johnny’ Méndez is Speaker Puerto Rico House of Representatives