Puerto Rico announces shadow congressional delegation
Puerto Rican officials on Wednesday introduced the territory’s “Statehood Commission,” a shadow congressional delegation that will make the case for the territory’s statehood.
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R) announced the commission’s members on the House floor, saying territorial status subjects Puerto Ricans “to a second-class citizenship.”
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) named former governor Carlos Romero Barceló (D) and Zoraida Fonalledas (R) as shadow senators; and former governor Pedro Rosselló González (D), former governor Luis Fortuño (R), former president of the Senate of Puerto Rico Charles Rodríguez (D), former chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship Alfonso Aguilar (R), and baseball Hall of Famer Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez (I) as shadow representatives.
Fortuño and Romero were both once resident commissioners, so they have access to the House floor.
Rosselló said Wednesday that because of the lack of federal support for Puerto Rico’s recovery after hurricanes Irma and Maria, “everyone has seen not only on a theory level, but on a pragmatic level, what it means to be a second-class citizen.”
“The opportunity was there to show that we were going to be treated equally,” said Rosselló, “and by and large there has been a demonstration that we weren’t.”
Rosselló said the Statehood Commission will lobby Congress to pass a law that will give Puerto Ricans a final chance to decide, via binding referendum, whether they want statehood or independence.
Puerto Rico held a nonbinding referendum last June where 97 percent of voters voted in favor of statehood, although only 23 percent of eligible voters turned out.
Both the Republican and Democratic platforms support statehood — the Republican platform explicitly so — but pro-statehood Puerto Ricans acknowledge the idea is an uphill battle, especially considering the territory’s dire economic situation.
But Rosselló and members of the commission said the island’s economy could only prosper under equal treatment as a state.
“The only way to guarantee that the people of Puerto Rico will get appropriate representation … is through statehood,” said Rosselló.
The governor also warned that he will be active in the 2018 election cycle, supporting the bids of candidates who in turn support statehood, and actively opposing others.
There are over 5 million Puerto Ricans in the states, mostly concentrated in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and Texas. Puerto Ricans are United States citizens, but are barred from voting in federal elections while they live on the island.
“We are proud to be Americans and we are proud to be Puerto Ricans as well. And it just behooves us as a nation when if any member of Congress, if he or she were to move to Puerto Rico, he or she would lose all their political rights,” said Fortuño.
“Were they to move to London, they would not lose those rights.”
Romero said Puerto Rico’s status diminishes the United States’s global standing.
“I’m sick and tired of not having the right to vote. And the nation cannot stand anywhere in the world and have the moral authority to talk about civil rights and voting rights without resolving the issue of Puerto Rico.”
“You know why we haven’t achieved? Because of prejudice. Prejudice against Hispanics. If we were instead of an island of 3.5 million Hispanics we were an island of 3.5 million Irishmen, we probably would’ve been a state a while ago,” said Romero.
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