Statement from Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez on Puerto Rico’s Statehood Vote
November 10, 2020
San Juan, Puerto Rico. Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez, the sole representative in the U.S. Congress for the 3.2 million Americans living in Puerto Rico issued the following statement after Island voters cast their ballot for statehood in the November 3 plebiscite:
“The clearest message from yesterday’s plebiscite vote in Puerto Rico was that a majority of Puerto Ricans -- Americans by birth -- want equality, a fully democratic form of government, and permanence within the United States that can be granted only through statehood.
“The choice was clear. Voters rejected any other status proposal: they rejected the option to remain a possession of the U.S. -- without votes in the government that makes our national laws and that makes our most important local laws; they rejected the option to remain an unincorporated territory -- treated differently than a State, overall, worse; they rejected the option to become a purely independent nation, whether from the U.S. or in an association with the U.S. that either nation could end; and they rejected the ‘commonwealth status’ proposal that the Federal government has repeatedly said is impossible for constitutional and other reasons.
“I am the highest individual vote-getter in the election by far but statehood got nearly 131,000 more votes than I did. Support for statehood far exceeds that for any party or individual.
“That a majority of Puerto Ricans want equality within their nation is not new. Majorities specifically voted against territory status and for statehood in 2012 – with all of the possible options available in the plebiscite – and for statehood in 2017 with all of the possible options on the ballot. But boycotts raised questions about whether a majority of Puerto Ricans wanted statehood. Yesterday clearly answered that a majority does.
“Puerto Ricans have also been ‘voting with their feet,’ abandoning the territory for the greater – and by ‘greater’ I only mean equal -- opportunity available to them as Americans in a State. There are now about 5.8 million Puerto Ricans in the States and less than 3.2 million in our three islands, meaning that about 65% of all Puerto Ricans live in a State. The population of the territory has plunged from more than 3.8 million 16 years ago and is projected to continue to decline as Puerto Ricans seek statehood by moving.
Florida is the State with the most Puerto Ricans, 1.2 million, and polling shows 81% want statehood for Puerto Rico. New York has the second most, 1.1 million, and polls show 78% want statehood for the territory. Similar majorities in those States wanted a ‘Statehood: Yes or No’ vote, such as we had yesterday. A national poll found 86% of Puerto Ricans in the States would be more likely to vote for a candidate who vows to push statehood.
“Puerto Rico’s different and unequal treatment in Federal laws and lack of votes in the government that makes those laws is the primary cause of the Island’s economic underdevelopment and decline. It is long past time for the Federal government to put Puerto Rico on the path to equality.
“The Americans of this territory – including the 235,000 who have served in the Armed Forces – deserve equality. Territory status, with its lack of representation and lesser treatment than that of the States, has caused most Puerto Ricans to obtain the privileges of statehood by moving to a State. They earn more than twice as much as if they had remained here and have a poverty rate that is less than half.
“The Governor-Elect and I were elected to pursue equality, and that’s what we will do – for the benefit of both Puerto Rico and the existing States.”