Letter Urging Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva to Conduct Public Forum on Puerto Rico Status Act
June 2, 2023
Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva
House Committee on Natural Resources
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Ranking Member Grijalva,
We are writing to reaffirm our position that any public engagement process related to H.R. 2757, the Puerto Rico Status Act, must include broad, diverse, and equitable participation from the Puerto Rican people. We also reaffirm that Congressional public hearings on the Puerto Rico political status question are the bare minimum required for on-the-record participation from Puerto Ricans in the archipelago and the diaspora, full transparency in front of the American people, and essential input that would give any Puerto Rico status bill increased chances of becoming law. However, absent any real opportunity for a public Congressional hearing given the current makeup of the House Committee on Natural Resources, we urge you and other members of said Committee to hold a public input forum during your upcoming visit and any future Congressional Delegations to Puerto Rico during this Congress, and to enter all remarks delivered in these forums into the Congressional record.
As you, your colleagues in the Committee, and other Democratic leaders have rightfully pointed out, Puerto Rico has been a U.S. colony for 125 years and remains so to this day. That means Puerto Ricans have been largely disenfranchised and politically disempowered, especially as it relates to the U.S. Congress and federal legislation that has the power to determine our future.
Given that political context, it is even more essential to ensure that Puerto Ricans with diverse ideological positions have opportunities to offer meaningful input into critical legislation like the Puerto Rico Status Act. Failing to do so would reify the political inequality inherent in Puerto Rico’s colonial status, and it would prevent the Puerto Rico Status Act from enjoying much-needed legitimacy and support from a broad segment of Puerto Ricans.
The introduction of the Puerto Rico Status Act in the 117th Congress and its reintroduction this year have been meaningful steps toward ending Puerto Rico’s colonial status. We acknowledge that last year you and other lawmakers held a public input forum in Puerto Rico; however, at that time there was only a discussion draft and legislation had not been introduced. As we widely denounced, last year’s efforts should have included a public hearing. Both last year’s (H.R.8393) and this year’s (H.R. 2757) version of the Puerto Rico Status Act include provisions on critical issues like the transition to independence, freedom of movement of Puerto Ricans to the United States, and citizenship and nationality questions that were absent from that discussion draft. That means the Puerto Rican people have not yet had an opportunity to weigh in on this legislation.
We also denounced that the June 4, 2022, public input forum in Puerto Rico did not feature broad and equitable participation from the Puerto Rican sovereignty and independence sectors (which have been historically silenced and suppressed), and it mostly became a platform to speak in favor of statehood. We urge your office, not just to hold another public input forum, but to put mechanisms in place that will ensure equal time among supporters of the various non-territorial options for Puerto Rico.
Moreover, holding a public input forum in Puerto Rico is especially critical given the evidently slim prospects that Chairman Westmerman and Republicans on the Committee will schedule a Congressional hearing on the Puerto Rico Status Act in the Committee on Natural Resources. Their refusal to do so should not mean that this legislation goes unexamined, and that public input is absent from the process. By holding a public forum in Puerto Rico, you can demonstrate Democrats’ willingness to continue engaging with the Puerto Rican people on this issue. We also encourage you to hold a similar forum for Puerto Ricans in the diaspora who have been displaced from our homeland by colonialism but who also have a stake in the political future of our beloved island-nation.
In summary, we urge you to:
- Hold one or several public input forums on the Puerto Rico Status Act in any future Congressional trips to Puerto Rico, and create mechanisms to ensure broad and equitable participation from supporters of all non-colonial status options, including language interpretation and submission of documents in Spanish;
- Hold one or more public forums on the Puerto Rico Status Act for the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States;
- Continue to press for Congressional hearings on the Puerto Rico Status Act in the House Committee on Natural Resources; and in their absence submit the testimony of the public forums as Congressional record to push against the forces of inaction; and
- Consider and implement other recommendations in our framework for Puerto Rico status legislation for a fair and inclusive process that addresses Puerto Ricans’ key concerns.
We applaud your efforts now and in the previous Congress to continue leading legislative efforts to resolve Puerto Rico’s status. We look forward to continuing to work with your office and with other lawmakers to promote a fair, inclusive, and politically viable decolonization process for Puerto Rico. We believe that the Puerto Rico Status Act and any future legislation will only be meaningful steps forward if they are informed by, and enjoy the support of, the Puerto Rican people. We urge you to ensure the broad participation of Puerto Ricans in that process and to continue to prioritize ending Puerto Rico’s immoral colonial status.
Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora (BUDPR)
Cc: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, House Minority Leader
Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-NY 7th District
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY 14th District