WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Lost amid the negotiations on Covid-19 relief this past week, a bipartisan group of members of Congress put forward a bill on Puerto Rican statehood led by Florida Democrat Darren Soto.
“We are gathered here today in our nation’s capitol with one clear message. It’s time for Puerto Rican statehood now,” said Soto. “It’s time to fulfill the promise of democracy and grant true equality for our fellow Americans back on the island.”
Though the road to ratification is long, the playing field may never have been better with a president who campaigned in support of statehood.
“I happen to believe statehood to be the most effective means of ensuring that residents of Puerto Rico are treated equally with equal representation at a federal level,” said Biden.
The issue though isn’t up to the president. Puerto Rico’s Delegate Jenniffer González says that the issue is also about fairness.
“We cannot vote for our commander in chief, we do not have four members of Congress, yet Congress has all power over us,” said González.
Former San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz says it’s not necessarily about trying to get Puerto Rico more money from the federal government.
“Well you’re asking the wrong person because I don’t think money is an argument for statehood. That is what statehooders in Puerto Rico think and they keep selling that,” said Yulín Cruz.
Yulín Cruz thinks a process of self-determination without reliance on the United States may be wiser than statehood
“Where all the voices are heard from statehood to independence and free association right smack in the middle. The people get informed of what the transition would be and let the people decide,” said Yulín Cruz.
Statehood though has remained a complicated issue, requiring a yes or no vote by Puerto Rico’s residents and a majority vote in Congress.
Veteran journalist Ray Suarez says a confluence of events from Hurricane Maria in 2017 to the covid pandemic has changed the conversation.
“I think Puerto Rico’s much understood, much publicized sufferings, have given statehood another look,” said Suarez.
Republicans have raised concerns about the potential for two Democratic senators coming from the island. Suarez, author of the book ‘Latino Americans: The 500 Year Legacy that Shaped a Nation’, cautions that Puerto Rico has a Republican delegate and a governor who once caucused with Democrats.
“So it does not line up neatly red and blue there are a lot more conservative votes,” said Suarez.
Only Congress can offer statehood to Puerto Rico as they did with Alaska and Hawaii in the late fifties, and it came up this week with the passage of HR 1, The For the People Act, which endorses statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington DC.
“You know, statehood for DC, Statehood for Puerto Rico. That’s what they’re asking us to do. We should be able to have full representation of all of our citizens regardless of where they live and reside,” said Rep. Leger Fernandez.
Gonzalez says that her group proposes following a precedent set in the late 50’s with Alaska and Hawaii and are hoping that they get the same results.
“We don’t want to invent a new process. That was the last two models and they function very well,” said González.