Puerto Rico has voted for statehood … twice
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Recently I’ve witnessed an influx of news around what statehood would mean for Puerto Rico. I’ve seen important statements outlining how statehood will benefit Puerto Rico’s economy and the U.S. at large. However, I also need to address the blatant falsehoods that are being spread.

One such falsehood was presented by my predecessor as Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress and governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, who asserted in a blog posted on The Hill that the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico do not want statehood. His argument is demonstrably inaccurate. Mr. Acevedo Vilá’s claim is based in politics, not facts. The fact is, the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico voted in favor of statehood twice in the past decade.

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In 2012, Puerto Rico residents voted in favor of changing the island’s current territorial status. When asked what they’d like to replace territorial status with, statehood was the clear winner, securing 50 percent more votes than the second-place choice of free association. In a distant third was independent status for the island. Again in 2017, the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico took to the polls, giving statehood a landslide victory.

The message is clear: the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico want statehood. If this were not the case, I would not be weighing in now.

The real reason Mr. Acevedo Vilá is speaking out against statehood is because his party’s preferred “enhanced commonwealth” plan – a fairy-tale status that exempts the residents of Puerto Rico from the federal income tax, while providing them with access to all federal programs and a new federal subsidy – was not on the ballot. His party continues to shout that the votes have been “rigged” because this option wasn’t included.

However, it was excluded for good reason: over the past 20 years, both the White House and Department of Justice have declared it to be unconstitutional.

In fact, Mr. Acevedo Vilá’s party controlled the government from 2013 through 2016, but it didn’t call for a vote. Even with the impossible “enhanced commonwealth” proposal on the table, polls showed statehood would win again.

It’s time to put an end to Mr. Acevedo Vilá’s false claims about statehood. While they may serve his party’s political agenda, they do not serve the interests of the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico.

Unfortunately, Mr. Acevedo Vilá is not the only one spreading misinformation about Puerto Rico statehood. I recently heard an off-base claim that statehood would hamper Puerto Rico’s economic recovery. This statement is not only incorrect, the exact opposite is true.

In the past decade, the White House and U.S. Senate leadership concluded that the best way to help Puerto Rico economically is to resolve the question of its status. These statements are supported by compelling case studies: Hawaii and Alaska, the most recent territories to become states, averaged double-digit economic growth for more than a decade after admission. In the face of staggering hurricane recovery costs and debt restructuring, the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico need the pro-growth solution: statehood.

This is why Puerto Rico’s representative to Congress, Republican Reps. González-Colon, and 37 bipartisan co-sponsors introduced H.R.6246, the Puerto Rico Admission Act. H.R.6246 would provide the U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico with the pathway to statehood they’ve voted in favor of repeatedly, and the economic recovery they need.

Most of Puerto Rico’s sons and daughters have already attained the responsibilities and benefits of statehood by relocating to one of the 50 states, with greater numbers moving every year. We shouldn’t have to move to obtain equality and democracy in the freest and most prosperous nation in the world.

Luis Fortuno served as Puerto Rico’s governor from 2009-12 and its sole non-voting representative in Congress from 2005-08. He is now a representative for Puerto Rico in its ‘shadow’ congressional delegation, the territory’s Republican National Committeeman, and a partner in the Steptoe & Johnson law firm. This column reflects Luis Fortuno’s personal opinion.