William-Jose Velez, Guest Writer
Writing from: Florida International University
Today, Congress is scheduled to vote on a piece of legislation that has been making headlines across the country – HR 2499. Also known as the Puerto Rico Democracy Act, this would give Puerto Ricans the opportunity to determine their future. There are two steps in this process: one, a plebiscite asking if Puerto Ricans would like to change their territory status, and two, whether that change in status means becoming a state or establishing their own nation. While this seems as a perfectly reasonable project to undertake, especially when considering that it targets a century-old issue, Democrats in Congress have refused to take up the matter until just recently.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi has delayed the vote for over nine months. Why does Pelosi insist on delaying democracy to the four million American citizens residing in Puerto Rico?
HR 2499 currently has 181 cosponsors, including 57 Republican Representatives that have stood for the core American values: democracy and justice. These leaders have recognized that it is time for Congress to step up their act and allow for Puerto Ricans to express their views about their future. For over 100 years, Puerto Rico has been a United States territory with no voting representation. In addition, Puerto Ricans residing on the island cannot vote for the President – despite serving in the military equally amongst their fellow American citizens and ranking in the top 5 jurisdictions for per capita military service. It is against our fundamental values to have disenfranchised soldiers who cannot vote for their commander in chief.
This is the chance to stand up for our ideals, and tell Congress to act. The status quo is unacceptable and undemocratic, both to Puerto Ricans and mainland Americans. Like in the past, today we face a challenge, and must make a decision: are we going to be consumed by trivial concerns that ignore our principles, or to stand up, defend and act on the principles that make us Americans? Abraham Lincoln did not hesitate to act based on principle when he faced the challenge of a divided nation, and neither did Ronald Reagan when the time came to call for democracy around the world. Today is our chance to follow suit, reaffirming our compromise to democracy.
Our country is one of values, where every man has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let us stand for those rights and reaffirm once more that we are the United States of America, and that when it comes to HR 2499, and the issue of Puerto Rico’s status, it is a matter of American ideals.
The author is a junior at Florida International University and the Vice President of the Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association.
This article, Puerto Rico’s Statehood Is a Matter of American Values, was originally published in The Politicizer.