Senator Heinrich’s announcement comes on the 104th anniversary of the signing of the Jones-Shafroth Act that granted U.S. citizenship to the residents of Puerto Rico
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is announcing legislation to outline a clear process to enable Puerto Rico’s admission into the Union. Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico) and U.S. Representative Darren Soto (D-Fla.) are introducing the House-companion bill.
In November 2020, a majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of backing U.S. statehood. The Puerto Rico Admission Act will constitute Congress’s response to citizens in Puerto Rico and provide a formal offer of statehood. Senator Heinrich sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that holds legislative jurisdiction over U.S. territories – including Puerto Rico.
“Last November, a majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood and for full voting representation in the United States. Congress now has a moral responsibility to respond,” said Heinrich. “That’s why I’m proud to join Representatives González-Colón and Soto to announce bicameral legislation that will create a clear and direct path to formally admit Puerto Rico as a state. My home state of New Mexico had a similar struggle to achieve statehood. It took 50 New Mexico statehood bills and 64 years before we were finally admitted to the United States. It is long past due for the millions of American citizens living in Puerto Rico to get the representation that they deserve.”
"The only way to achieve constitutional citizenship for the people of Puerto Rico is by admitting the territory as a State of Union. Although Puerto Rico is fully integrated into the nation's economic system, it is foreign for tax purposes, not incorporated for tariff purposes, and receives unequal treatment under critical programs like Medicaid and Medicare. There is only one way to change this, and it is through Puerto Rico's admission as a State. This bill precisely seeks that, the transition to statehood as the people of Puerto Rico requested three consecutive times at the ballot box,” said González-Colón.
"As members of Congress, we have a responsibility to listen to the demands of the American people- and they have spoken," said Soto. "Last November, Americans in Puerto Rico reached a clear consensus: their destiny lies with statehood. Now, the moment to finally admit Puerto Rico as a state of our Union is upon us. Our historic legislation will finally end over 120 years of colonialism and provide full rights and representation to more than 3.2 million Americans. Back to back hurricanes, earthquakes and now the COVID-19 pandemic have proven that the Island’s colonial status is simply not working. Our quest for statehood is about respecting democracy and equality in Puerto Rico. We look forward to working with President Biden and congressional leaders from both parties and chambers to advance and pass the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act. Together we will forge a new chapter in our nation's history when Puerto Rico becomes a full and equal member of the United States."
"It is time for Congress to act on the moral and political imperative conveyed by our clear message. This bipartisan bill filed by our Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and our friend Congressman Darren Soto, is the answer our people deserve. I want to also thank Senator Heinrich for standing up for the people of Puerto Rico and introducing a statehood bill on the Senate side. These actions set forth the process for Puerto Rico to become a state of the Union,” said Puerto Rico Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi. “The next step is for the American citizens of Puerto Rico to express themselves in a congressionally sanctioned referendum offering statehood to our Island. Once the people of Puerto Rico reaffirm their desire for equal rights, the admission would take place, we will elect our Congressional delegation, and be ready to vote for President and Vice President. We deserve a seat at the table, we have earned it, and we will not stop until we get it”.
For 104 years, the people of Puerto Rico have been proud American citizens. Yet, due to the current territory status, the 3.2 million Americans in Puerto Rico lack full voting representation in Congress and cannot vote for their Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States.
As a territory, the federal government can—and often does—treat Puerto Rico unequally under federal laws and programs that are crucial to combat poverty and promote economic development. Additionally, since the island became a territory, more than 325,000 Puerto Ricans have served in the U.S. military.
The Puerto Rico Admission Act 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 and requires that Puerto Rico would be admitted on an equal footing with other states. The legislation also sets out a timeline for the future referendum vote, declaration of Puerto Rican statehood, and an election for the Puerto Rican Congressional Delegation.