Senators call for Puerto Rico statehood

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would allow Puerto Rico to begin the process of seeking statehood.

S. 2020, the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act, would provide for a federally-sponsored vote on the territory’s admission as a state. If a majority of voters affirm that they want Puerto Rico to become a state, the bill requires the president to transmit legislation to Congress to admit Puerto Rico to the union.

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“Puerto Rico has spent nearly 116 years as an American territory. That’s long enough,” Heinrich said. “The debate over Puerto Rico’s status needs to be settled once and for all so that its people can focus on fostering a more prosperous future.”

In 2012, 54 percent of Puerto Ricans voted to reject their current U.S. territory status and instead favored statehood.

Res. Comm. Pedro Pierluisi (D-P.R.) introduced a companion measure in the House, H.R. 2000.

“Those of us who seek equality and justice through statehood understand that this struggle requires passion and determination, but that it also demands strategic thought and action,” Pierluisi said. “The filing of a Senate companion bill to H.R. 2000 demonstrates that the momentum in favor of statehood continues to build. We are closer than ever before to achieving our goal.”

Because Puerto Rico is a territory and not a state, it receives only a percentage of the federal aid that a state would.

“Residents of Puerto Rico are leaving in unprecedented numbers for the states in search of the quality of life they deserve as American citizens,” Pierluisi said. “The people of Puerto Rico comprehend that this crisis is structural in nature, rooted in the unequal and undemocratic treatment that Puerto Rico receives because it is a territory.”