Puerto Rico Statehood Bill Stalls In Congress

Puerto Rico Statehood Bill Stalls In Congress

The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act has been filed in both the U.S. Senate (S.780) and the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R.1522); however, the bill has not gained any traction to date in Congress.

In the U.S. Senate, the bill has only picked up 5 cosponsors to date. The only action taken on the bill in the U.S. Senate was when the bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources back on March 16, 2021. As well, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stands opposed to the bill, and has gone on record by stating, “I don’t agree with them, I’m not going to support their [Puerto Rico] statehood bill.”

In the U.S. House, nothing has been done on the bill since June 16, 2021, when hearings were held by the Committee on Natural Resources. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”) has not cosponsored the Puerto Rico statehood bill to date, and she has stated that she prefers the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act, a bill that she has introduced in the House, and which proposes creating a “status convention” made up of delegates elected by Puerto Rican voters, and who would be responsible for coming up with long-term solutions for the island’s territorial status, be it statehood, independence, or any other options beyond its current territorial arrangement.

Puerto Rico barely approved its November, 2020, statehood referendum by a vote of just 52%-48%.

The non-binding referendum showed that only a very slim majority of Puerto Ricans support statehood at this time. This was the 6th time that Puerto Ricans had a choice to make on statehood.

This recent referendum about statehood for Puerto Rico, as well as prior bills regarding statehood for Puerto Rico, all fail to address the vital question about official English on the island.

Puerto Rico is mired in a deep financial crisis after the island declared a type of bankruptcy, and currently it is under the supervision of an oversight board.

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but cannot vote for President. Statehood would grant Puerto Rico two senators and probably four or five representatives.

ProEnglish Board of Directors Chair Dr. Rosalie Porter has stated that “any legislative attempt by the island to become the 51st state must stipulate that English become its primary official language of the government, courts, and school system.”

Dr. Porter added: “Let’s remember that the 2011 recommendations from President Barack Obama’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status says that if the U.S. commonwealth ever applies for statehood, Congress has ultimate authority over admission and English must play a central role in the daily life of the island. At a minimum, we believe a large majority must become fluent in English for statehood to be even considered.”

Accepting Puerto Rico as a new state, or any other new classification, without a specific designation of English as the primary official language of the island, would automatically transform the United States into a bilingual nation. ProEnglish believes that the U.S. should look to Canada’s experience as a bilingual nation in order to remind us of the potential risks and consequences involved, including sharp cultural and political divisions and much higher costs for government-mandated translation and interpretation services.

It will be extremely expensive for U.S. taxpayers if Puerto Rico becomes a new state in the union. This new economic burden, combined with no current demand or stipulation that English become the primary official language of the government, courts, and school system on the island, all serve to make Puerto Rico’s statehood bid a very risky proposition at the present time.