Jenniffer González defends Puerto Ricans' vote for Statehood
Washington, DC - Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon stated that today’s hearing in Congress offers an opportunity to highlight the major differences between the two status projects. “First, my bill respects the mandate of the people. The other legislation, sponsored by two congresswomen who were not elected by Puerto Rico nor reside on the island, who ignore the mandate of the people and who seek to decide and know what is best for the American citizens residing on the island. I am enthusiastic about the testimony of Governor Pedro Pierluisi and Professor Cristiana Ponsa-Kraus’ test, which reveals the unconstitutionality of Velázquez's project to resolve the status of Puerto Rico”.
The Subcommittee on Insular Affairs of the House Natural Resources Committee held today a virtual public hearing to discuss two bills to decide the status of Puerto Rico, explained González Colón, who is also the Republican Ranking Member in this subcommittee. These legislations are H.R. 1522 and H.R. 2070.
H.R. 1522 Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act. sponsored by González Colón and Darren Soto, will have as witnesses Governor Pedro Pierluisi; the vice president of the Democratic Party in Puerto Rico Johanne Vélez García; the president of the Puerto Rico Statehood Council and former Secretary of Justice of Puerto Rico, José Fuentes; and Columbia University Law School Professor, Dr. Christina D. Ponsa Kraus.
Opening Statement by congresswoman Jenniffer González Colón:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to first offer my deepest condolences on the recent passing of Alex Lofgren from your staff. My sympathies are with you, your office and Alex’s loved ones.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling on this important hearing that addresses the results of the November 3rd election in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico.
Today, we will hear testimony on two House bills, H.R. 1522, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, and H.R. 2070.
H.R. 1522, introduced by Mr. Soto and I, would end Puerto Rico’s centennial territorial status, while the other bill is another tactic to delay the decolonization process and thus perpetuate the unequal treatment of the 3.2 million Americans on the Island.
Let me be clear, there is nothing that this other legislation will offer to Puerto Rico that has not already been discussed in 123 years.
A status convention, as proposed by this bill, creates a cumbersome process without any kind of timeline to completion, and which problematically does not recognize that the only two non-territorial and constitutional status options are statehood and independence.
Not only that – the bill shamelessly ignores the will of voters in Puerto Rico, ignores a legitimate democratic process, and ignores self-determination, despite the bill’s misleading title.
Letting the losing minority deny the clear choice of the majority in a free and fair vote isn’t democracy, and the United States must not take part in such an egregious act!
That bill is truly a slap in the face to Puerto Rican voters!
On the other hand, H.R. 1522, respects and upholds Puerto Rico’s vote for statehood with the true and only self-determination method, the ballot box. Puerto Ricans have voted for statehood three times in elections that the courts upheld.
The March 24th certified results of the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission on voter participation, showcases that voter turnout was 73.15%. That is a higher voter turnout than what we have seen here in the United States in decades.
The bipartisan H.R. 1522 would constitute Congress’s response to our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and provide a formal offer of statehood. The legislation outlines a clear process to enable the Island’s admission into the Union, should it be ratified by Puerto Rico voters in a federally sponsored, yes-or-no referendum. This is the exact same procedure established for Alaska and Hawaii prior to their admission as States.
Statehood is going to happen. It is the logical next step in our political future as Americans.
Congress has the chance to make clear that when American citizens ask for equality and justice, they will get equality and justice as American Citizens. Not that we will welcome a proposal to make them be “separate but equal”.
The status quo is unsustainable and until it is addressed, Puerto Rico’s economy and social development will continue to lag behind that of the 50 states, driving Puerto Ricans to leave the Island in search of better opportunities. An example of this is how today, 44% of Island residents live under the poverty level.
For 104 years, the people of Puerto Rico have been proud American citizens, with over 235,000 having honorably served our Nation in the U.S. Armed Forces. All while being denied equal participation in the federal decision-making process.
Only statehood provides that equal participation guarantees U.S. citizenship, and represents a permanent and constitutional solution to Puerto Rico’s status issue.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I yield back”.