Washington, DC – Members of Puerto Rico’s shadow congressional delegation, known as the Statehood Commission, sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to all Members of Congress urging them to admit Puerto Rico as the 51st State of the Union, marking the conclusion of the 100th anniversary of American citizenship being extended to Puerto Ricans.
Puerto Rico became a United States territory when it was ceded by Spain in 1898. In 1917, on the eve of America’s entry into World War I, Congress granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans through the Jones-Shafroth Act (P.L. 64-368). Since then, Puerto Ricans have served in all armed conflicts defending America’s interests abroad yet cannot vote for their Commander in Chief.
In a 2017 political status plebiscite, 97% of Puerto Rican voters overwhelmingly supported statehood for the U.S. territory. Following the vote, the Government of Puerto Rico created the Statehood Commission as a way to create awareness in Washington, DC about the island’s colonial relationship with the United States, and the need to achieve equality through statehood.
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.
“As this celebration of 100 years of American citizenship comes to an end, we call on Congress to recognize that the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico live at a disadvantage compared to our fellow citizens in the states. Puerto Ricans are subject to Federal laws but do not have voting representation,” the letter reads.
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.