Washington, DC – Today, the members of Puerto Rico’s shadow Congressional delegation – five shadow U.S. Representatives and two shadow U.S. Senators – demanded to be seated in the United States House of Representatives and Senate as the legitimate lawmakers of America’s 51st state. The Commissioners, appointed by Governor Ricardo Rosselló and confirmed by the Puerto Rico legislature, presented their credentials to the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate.
In a 2017 political status plebiscite, 97% of Puerto Rican voters overwhelmingly supported statehood.
Puerto Rico has been a United States territory since 1898 when the islands were ceded by Spain to the United States. Its residents have been American citizens since 1917, and have proudly served and continue to serve in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Territories, unlike states, are not sovereign and are treated by the Constitution as possessions of Congress. Puerto Rico residents, regardless of place of birth, cannot vote in Congressional or presidential elections. Its lack of political muscle and representation results in disenfranchisement and inequality with regards to mainland Americans.
The Puerto Rico shadow Congressional delegation mirrors the process by which the former Territory of Tennessee petitioned and attained statehood. Tired of delays and Congress’ lack of interest, the people of Tennessee sent a shadow Congressional delegation to Washington, DC. to demand recognition and statehood for the territory. In 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state of the Union. Since then, six former territories have successfully carried out similar plans, the last one being Alaska in 1959.
“The people of Puerto Rico twice went to the polls and expressed an overwhelming support for Puerto Rican statehood. The citizens’ support for statehood increased from 61% in the 2012 plebiscite to 97% in 2017. It is our moral imperative to demand Congress recognize 3.4 million disenfranchised Americans. It is time to end Puerto Ricans’ second-class citizenship, and statehood is the only guarantee for that to happen,” said current Governor Ricardo Rosselló.
In a historic speech on the House floor, Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón – Puerto Rico’s sole, non-voting representative in the Congress – introduced the shadow delegation to the nation’s legislators.
“The island overwhelmingly voted for statehood in 2012 by a margin of 61% and 97% in June of last year. That’s the request that brought me here, that’s what brings the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, the Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera-Schatz, House Speaker Johnny Mendez, and other officials that have come to witness today’s historic introduction of the Puerto Rico Shadow Delegation to this Congress. That delegation will demand that the United States recognize the will of Puerto Rico to become a state. This long-awaited action is in accord with the precedents set forth by the Tennessee Plan adopted by the territories of Tennessee, Michigan, Oregon, California, Iowa, Kansas, and Alaska, which followed a similar path to their eventual admission as states,” said Cong. González-Colón.
Former governor Carlos Romero Barceló (D) and current National Committeewoman of the Republican Party of Puerto Rico Zoraida Fonalledas (R) serve as Senators while former governor Pedro Rosselló González (D), former governor Luis Fortuño (R), former president of the Senate of Puerto Rico and current State Chair of the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico Charles Rodríguez (D), former Chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship Alfonso Aguilar (R), and baseball Hall of Famer Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez (I) serve as Representatives.
Shadow representative Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez could not attend today’s activities and asked to be excused due to professional commitments, nevertheless, expressed his support for the Statehood Commission.
“I fully support Puerto Rico’s Shadow Congressional Delegation – also known as the Statehood Commission – and regret not being able to be alongside my colleagues today,” said Mr. Rodríguez.
The delegation will continue to lobby Congress for Puerto Rican statehood and will inform the mainland public of the need to end a 100-year old colonial territory within America’s borders.