Puerto Rico would be Admitted as a State under Gonzalez-Colon Bill

January 4, 2017
Press Release

Puerto Rico could become a State of the United States under a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today by the territory’s Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R/NPP).

If the islands’ U.S. citizens vote under a 2014 Federal law (U.S. Public Law 113-76) to reaffirm the territory’s choice of statehood by 61.1% vote in 2012, laws that treat Puerto Rico differently than a State would be amended to phase-in equal treatment by January 3, 2025, when Puerto Rico would become a State. The President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status would be required to submit the phase-in specifics within 270 days of a  reaffirmation of the choice of statehood. 

The bill also explains that:

  • U.S. policy is that Puerto Rico can chose statehood or nationhood;
  • Territory treatment has substantially contributed to the islands’ economic underdevelopment and fiscal depression;
  • millions of Puerto Ricans have had to obtain statehood by moving to a State; and
  • equality and representation in the Federal government are required for economic and social as well as democratic reasons. 

The 2014 Federal law responded to Puerto Rico’s plebiscite under local law by appropriating $2.5 million for a vote on an option or options proposed by Puerto Rico’s Elections Commission that can resolve the issue of the territory’s ultimate political status and are found by the U.S. Department of Justice to not conflict with the Constitution and policies of the U.S. Authorities from all three branches of the Federal government have recently reiterated that the possible options are statehood and separate nationhood, whether fully independent from the U.S. or in an association with it that either nation could end.

In introducing the bill, Gonzalez-Colon explained that, “This bill is only the first measure that I will propose if necessary to obtain equality for the Americans of Puerto Rico – who are now only equal in war, but not in peace.”

In addition to Gonzalez-Colon, the governor of Puerto Rico elected last November, Ricardo Rossello, and two-thirds of the members of each house of the territory’s Legislative Assembly were elected on a joint platform of seeking statehood.  The territorial government is expect to enact legislation soon in this regard and to call a vote under the 2014 Federal law. 

Gonzalez-Colon’s bill primarily differs from one introduced by her predecessor, Pedro Pierluisi (D/PNP), in that it would not require that another Federal law be enacted after the plebiscite to admit Puerto Rico as a State. 

Puerto Rico is sometimes misleadingly called a “commonwealth” in English and an “associated free state” in Spanish but those are just the formal names of the insular government, just as four States and another territory are formally named “The Commonwealth.”

Freely associated state status is defined in U.S. and international law. It is a separate nation, usually graduating from territory status, which has entered into a power-sharing agreement with another nation on the condition that either can unilaterally end the association. That does not describe Puerto Rico’s status. The U.S. is in free association with three former parts of a territory that the U.S. administered in the Pacific.


PDF iconPuerto Rico Admission Act.pdf