Heinrich Leads Senate Introduction Of Legislation To Create Pathway To Statehood For Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) introduced the Puerto Rico Admission Act, legislation to outline a clear process to enable Puerto Rico’s admission into the Union. This legislation is the Senate-companion to legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico) and U.S. Representative Darren Soto (D-Fla.).

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 and introduce this 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.”

"I have always believed that the Americans living in Puerto Rico needed to be able to decide their future status. They have made it loud and clear -- several times -- that they want Puerto Rico statehood," said Wyden. "These American citizens deserve full representation in Congress and equal access to essential federal services. Puerto Rico should be treated the same as all the territories that came before them -- they want statehood and should be provided that path."

“Puerto Ricans are American citizens, yet they have been denied access to the full benefits of our democracy – most notably voting representation in Congress and the right to vote in our Presidential general elections. Too often our government’s response to natural disasters and economic crises on the island has been woefully inadequate," said Padilla. "Providing Puerto Ricans with a clear path to approve statehood will go a long way toward ensuring the wellbeing, safety, and economic security of our fellow American citizens.”

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.

The House-companion led by Resident Commissioner González-Colón and Representative Soto is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 57 U.S. Representatives.

"The only way to achieve constitutional citizenship for the people of Puerto Rico is by admitting the territory as a State of the 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 more than 40 critical federal programs. It is clear that under the current status, Puerto Rico’s economy will continue to lag behind those of the 50 States. 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. I want to commend Senator Martin Heinrich for joining Puerto Rico’s quest for equality and leading this important effort in the Senate,” 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."

"The people of Puerto Rico have conveyed a clear message for equality, and it is time for Congress to act and stand on the side of history that ensures equal rights for every American citizen. I thank Senator Martin Heinrich, who as our Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and our friend Congressman Darren Soto have done on the House side, has introduced a statehood bill in the Senate to respond to Puerto Ricans who seek the seat at the table that they have earned and deserve," said Puerto Rico Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi. “The voice of the American citizens from Puerto Rico must be heard and their democratically expressed will must become a reality. We will consent to inequality no more."

Read the full text of the bill by clicking here.