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Congress should pass Puerto Rico statehood bill

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As most people focused on Arizona’s presidential election results, there was another candidate on the ballot who could have an outsized influence on the future of American politics for decades to come. Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona successfully ran for re-election and is expected to retain his position as chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. This is the very committee responsible for moving legislation regarding Puerto Rico statehood.

On November 3, as the mainland voted for president, Puerto Rico held its third vote in less than ten years regarding its political status. And for the third time, Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood for the island. More Puerto Rican voters supported statehood than the candidate on the ballot who received the most votes, by over 100,000 votes, showing that support for statehood on the island transcends political parties and has broad support.

Earlier this year, Puerto Rico statehood became an issue on the campaign trail, with President-elect Joe Biden supporting statehood for the island if Puerto Ricans decide that is their preferred path, which they did, while Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that while he was in charge, Puerto Rico would not become a state and he framed it as part of the “radical agenda” of Democrats.

Whether McConnell will still be leading the Senate depends on the outcome of the two Georgia Senate elections next month, but it is critical that those in the House with the power to do something, like Representative Grijalva, do the right thing and support legislation that would make Puerto Rico a state.

Representative Grijalva has been a fantastic champion for the Puerto Rican people, fighting for additional federal funds for the island and has maintained communication with key leaders on the island to ensure that their issues are heard. He has sponsored legislation to cancel Puerto Rico’s unsecured debt, protect pensioners on the island, as well as guarantee $800 million for the University of Puerto Rico.

He also worked hard to hold the Trump administration accountable for their lack of a federal response to the natural disasters that have occurred in Puerto Rico, particularly “the Trump administration’s irresponsible decision to withhold Hurricane Maria disaster aid for Puerto Rico [which] has restricted the island’s ability to rebuild its infrastructure.”

Ray Rios

Ray Rios

But there is still more work to do, and Puerto Rico statehood should be at the top of the list.

Congressman Grijalva has indicated that he would hold a public hearing on the issue of Puerto Rico statehood in 2021, but has expressed hesitance to move forward with the bill unless there is enough support from the Senate and White House. But it is critical that Grijalva take legislative action because it is the right thing to do, regardless of the level of support in the other chamber.

As it stands, Puerto Ricans cannot vote for president, but are required to live under the rules established by a president’s administration. They have no representation in the Senate, and their congressional representative, Jenniffer Gonzalez, cannot vote for or against legislation on the House floor. This is unfair for the American citizens on the island who are currently relegated to status as second-class citizens.

Not only is it the right thing to do after the recent vote, but statehood would also be beneficial to both those on the Island and the rest of the United States. As previous territories that became states have shown, including Hawaii and Alaska, becoming a state results in economic prosperity for those new states.

Making Puerto Rico a state would respect the will of the Puerto Rican people, provide true representation for the American citizens on the island, and be of economic benefit for both Puerto Rico and the mainland. Hopefully, Representative Grijalva will support Puerto Rico statehood unequivocally, and move critical legislation out of his committee to help make it happen.

Ray Rios was born in America to Puerto Rican parents and grew up in Puerto Rico from the age of 6. He is now a successful business owner in Tucson.

5 comments

  1. This is nonsense. It’s not up to Congress only to make Puerto Rico a state. Puerto Ricans have a say too, and 74% repudiated Statehood on Nov 2020 unlike what Ray Rios want the reader to believe. Similarly, 75% repudiated statehood in 2017. 56% repudiated it in 2012. 54% repudiated it in 1998 and 1993. And 61% repudiated it in 1969. Congress can’t shove Statehood up the rears of the vast majority of citizens who don’t want it, just so the pathetic minority that does want it can do their happy dance. Shame on Ray Rios, who probably wants Statehood for Puerto Rico in order to give the Democratic Party two additional senators and five House representatives.

  2. Mr José Díaz : Where did you get those numbers? Is well known that the MAJORITY OF PUERTORRICANS want equality with our co-citizens in the USA. We live in a Democracy where the voting people rules. In the November 2020 election we had a majority of participants in the election, so what you are stating is FALSE AND MISLEADING . You’re following the common practice of the fascist and Socialist of misinformation and twisting the TRUTH. People that read this article, be sure it’s stating the TRUTH!

  3. Oh come on. Residents of the District of Columbia not only pay federal taxes, but pay a higher per capita rate than any state, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for non-taxed Puerto Rico? There’s a reason why most license plates in DC say Taxation Without Representation.

  4. The District of Columbia pays federal income taxes w Payroll txes because the trade-off is the presidential vote.
    Puerto Ricans do not have the presidential vote, so they only pay federal payroll taxes. And Puerto Ricans pay all federal payroll taxes, her her Sport changed on SS,& medicare. Unless of course you work for a federal agency in Puerto Rico or the US Military. And that case, you pay federal income taxes as well, but you still get no vote for president and no vote for Congress.
    You still think Puerto Rico has a free ride compared to DC?

  5. Does a comparative analysis really help either cause? What about the USVI, Guam and American Samoa? And can’t we address all of this together? All American citizens deserve the same rights.

    I would point out, a permanent exemption from the Jones act would probably do more for Puerto Rico than anything else.

    I don’t understand why those seeking statehood would not support each other’s rights.

    Like anywhere else I want the Puerto Rican people to decide. If we are concerned about voter fraud anywhere, we should all be supporting Real ID. That being said, ID’s should be free if they are an ID only where drivers licenses should be charged. Otherwise, requiring and ID is the equivalent of a poll tax.

    If Puerto Rico or any other territory wants out, I believe they should also have that right. But turn out for most plebiscites are low because they do not believe that it will matter. Self determination is in our Constitution. How can we not support that morally as a country? I strongly believe that statehood would benefit Puerto Rico. That being said, we would have to have strong legislation to prevent gentrification from exacerbating an already tough housing crisis.

    I also think that Puerto Rico is ripe to be at the forefront of electrification of vehicle in the US. Considering the limited driving range needed, we should support a strong re-electrification of the islands.

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