Editor’s Note: On Feb. 7th, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) introduced a bill (HR 900) that starts the process to end Congress’ control of Puerto Rico and its current territorial status which was rejected by voters in 2012. The legislation calls for a referendum where the Puerto Rican people determine the Island’s future political status by choosing between full independence or a compact of free association with the U.S.
Sovereignty has always been on the table as an option for the future status of Puerto Rico, but we have failed to allow the Puerto Rican people a full examination, debate and up-or-down vote on independence or free association. This bill represents the beginning of that process.
Statehood and full assimilation—where Puerto Rico gives up its nationhood, its culture, its Olympic teams, its language and the ability to determine its own future without a master—is not the only option and I would argue, not the best option for Puerto Ricans. This bill is about making the determination of Puerto Rico’s future status subject to a full, fair and honest debate with all of the remedies for Puerto Rico’s current colonial subjugation put before voters.
[pullquote]Every time a Puerto Rican buys anything with a dollar bill with George Washington’s face on it, the irony is unmistakable.[/pullquote]
The legislation comes as the Island’s statehooders are preparing another one-sided plebiscite aimed at bolstering their case for statehood. Yet, just last year, led by Republicans but joined by many Democrats, the Congress of the United States took over the financial decision-making of the Puerto Rican government and people, forming a Fiscal Control Board (Junta de Control) to run the Island. In the process of taking control, the Congress declared unequivocally that Puerto Rico is a colony and that Congress holds the sovereignty of the Puerto Rican people.
The colonial relationship with the United States has never been starker. It is time to return sovereignty back to the Puerto Rican people.
Every time a Puerto Rican buys anything with a dollar bill with George Washington’s face on it, the irony is unmistakable — George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the founders of the United States were fierce anti-colonialists who fought against tyranny and taxation without representation. They would co-sponsor my bill if they were alive today. Puerto Rico is under the rule of the U.S. and under the thumb of the Junta de Control, yet the founding principles of the U.S. – self-determination and government by the governed – have always been ignored.
Let’s have a fair and honest process and let the Puerto Rican people decide. Let the Puerto Rican people decide if now is the time for our Declaration of Independence.
Luis Gutiérrez is a Congressman in Illinois’ Fourth District. Rep. Gutiérrez, is the U.S.-born child of Puerto Rican parents. He is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and is the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.