Sunday, May 26, 2019

Puerto Rico statehood admission bill introduced in U.S. Congress

By on March 28, 2019

It's time to end 120 years of colonialism for Puerto Ricans. Today, along with Jenniffer González Colón, I'm proud to introduce the first direct Puerto Rico Statehood bill to admit the island as the 51st state of the union.

Posted by US Rep Darren Soto on Thursday, March 28, 2019

Would require island be ‘declared admitted’ 90 days after enactment

SAN JUAN – Citing the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (Promesa) and the federal post-Hurricane Maria recovery efforts as examples of the inadequacy of the island’s political status, the U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) introduced Thursday the Puerto Rico Admission Act bill, which seeks granting the island statehood.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González (R-PR), the island’s non-voting resident commissioner, seeks for Puerto Rico to be “declared admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the other States” in the 90 days after the passage of H.R.1965.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties attended the press conference to reveal the measure. Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego, (D-Ariz.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) joined Soto, González and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

(Courtesy)

The bill, the island’s resident commissioner believes, addresses what she sees as a key factor in the worsening outmigration Puerto Rico has experienced in recent years.

“People aren’t leaving the island because the weather here is better. They are leaving the island because we don’t have the same opportunities and the same benefits,” González said, recalling this was but her latest bill to change Puerto Rico’s status.

The resident commissioner was alluding to H.R. 6246, or the Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018, which had 58 co-sponsors including the previously mentioned representatives, who spoke about the incongruency they see between Puerto Rico’s territorial status and the nation’s democratic principles.

“Puerto Rico’s colonial status is not working. Look no further than an abysmal Hurricane Maria recovery efforts and a draconian Promesa law to prove this point too well,” Soto said.

As for the content of the bill, the five-page document makes general indications about the current laws and members of the Puerto Rican government, but it does not address more specific logistical matters such as the process to add the members of Congress who would represent the island.

Whether Puerto Rico’s representatives are simply added to the total, which would put the figure at about 440 or the current number 435 representatives get re-shuffled is a discussion of constitutional implications.

In terms of the local government, the bill states, “[p]ersons holding executive, legislative, and judicial offices in the Government of Puerto Rico shall continue to discharge the duties of their respective offices consistent with the United States Constitution, Federal laws applicable to Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Constitution, and the laws of the State of Puerto Rico.”

The bill does not to seek a change to the rule of law of Puerto Rico or the federal laws that are not directly affected by the change of status.

“All of the territory laws in force in Puerto Rico on the date of the enactment of this Act shall—continue in force and effect in the State, except as modified by this Act; and be subject to repeal or amendment by the legislature and the Governor of Puerto Rico.

“All of the laws of the United States shall have the same force and effect as on the date immediately prior to the date of admission of Puerto Rico into the Union as a State, except for any provision of law that treats Puerto Rico and its residents differently than the States of the Union and their residents, which shall be amended as of the date of admission to treat the State of Puerto Rico and its residents equally with the other States of the Union and their residents.”

The bill also stipulates that its purpose is not to grant or deny citizenship.

“No provision of this Act shall operate to confer United States citizenship, nor terminate citizenship hereto lawfully acquired, nor restore citizenship terminated or lost under any law of the United States.”

Rosselló reiterated his position: “Equality for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico is the biggest civil rights issue in the United States today. Puerto Rico’s colonial status and unsustainable relationship with the federal government has gone on for over a century, even as our citizens have contributed to the growth, culture and social fabric of the United States, and stood shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens on battlefields around the globe and under our same flag. We urge all members of Congress to support this legislation and join in our quest to achieve equal treatment for the over 3 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.”

On the island, minority Popular Democratic Party President Aníbal José Torres criticized what he called “the fifth attempt at statehood” by Rosselló and González.

“They got on a plane and went to Washington to present a statehood bill without having a mandate from the people for the annexation. They are politicking with something that is not going to be approved,” Torres said at a press conference.

He mentioned that they did not take the opportunity to refute President Donald Trump.

“They are going to celebrate another attempt for statehood, but they have not made a single effort to confront President Trump when he says he would not send a dollar more to Puerto Rico for its recovery,” he said.

He recalled that the U.S. Senate is debating a measure that could give Puerto Rico $600 million for the Nutrition Assistance Program (PAN) it needs as well as matching funds for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs.

“The emergency spending bill for Puerto Rico and other jurisdictions is literally stalled because the Republicans – the Resident Commissioner’s Party – do not want to help Puerto Rico with the federal cost share waiver and other funds,” he said.

See the full text of H.R.1965, Puerto Rico Admission Act.

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