With Puerto Rico holding a plebiscite on Sunday on its status, members of the Florida congressional delegation are weighing in on the matter with one Democrat from the Sunshine State continuing to push for statehood.
Puerto Rican voters will have three options on Sunday: statehood, becoming independent or keeping its current territorial status. In a referendum held in 2012, 46 percent of Puerto Rican voters opted for their current status while 54 percent wanted change. In the leadup to Sunday’s vote, polls show statehood is the preferred option. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, NPP-PR, has been leading the charge for statehood.
With a growing Puerto Rican population in the Sunshine State, several members of the Florida congressional delegation weighed in on the upcoming vote this week.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., whose father was from Puerto Rico, offered his take on the plebiscite.
“Puerto Rico’s unresolved political status is intimately connected to many of the island’s challenges including its fiscal, economic and demographic crisis,” Soto said. “The decision on Puerto Rico’s ultimate political status has to come from the people, and it’s not my place to try to tell them how to vote. Yet as a member of the U.S. Congress from Florida, representing a district with a large Puerto Rican population, and being of Puerto Rican heritage myself, I take great interest in the issue. And I look forward to seeing the outcome of the June 11th plebiscite.
“I encourage my fellow citizens from Puerto Rico to participate in the plebiscite and I will strongly support its outcome,” Soto added. “As a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs, which has direct jurisdiction over Puerto Rican affairs, I want to reaffirm my commitment to advocate strongly for the federal government to honor and respect the wishes and will of the people of Puerto Rico.
“Ultimately, I believe that it is in the best interest of my constituents, our fellow citizens in the territory, and America as a whole, that Congress work to ensure a strong and vibrant Puerto Rico,” Soto concluded. “Congress must resolve Puerto Rico’s political status to unleash its full economic potential and return prosperity to the island.”
While Soto did not offer his thoughts on how Puerto Rico should vote on Sunday, a fellow Central Florida Democrat continued to call for voters to choose statehood.
“Central Florida is home to many individuals born in Puerto Rico or of Puerto Rican heritage,”said U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., on Wednesday. “I care deeply about the 3.4 million individuals that reside on the island. They are proud and patriotic American citizens who have made countless contributions to our nation in times of war and peace.
“Because Puerto Rico is a territory, the people of Puerto Rico cannot vote for their president and commander-in-chief, and do not have a vote in Congress,” Murphy added. “This lack of democratic rights is unacceptable. Puerto Rico is also treated unequally under critical federal programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare, and refundable federal tax credits like the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. This unequal treatment has been a primary cause of the island’s economic, debt, and migration crises, and it must be addressed.
“As Puerto Ricans head to the polls on June 11, I will be watching with great interest,” Murphy continued. “As I have stated before, I believe Puerto Rico should discard its territory status and become a state or a sovereign nation. The choice lies with the people of Puerto Rico. My personal hope is that they will choose statehood, so they have full voting rights and full equality in the nation they have served with honor.”
Murphy, a freshman in Congress, took to the House floor back in March to call for Puerto Rican statehood.
In South Florida, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., did not say which path he thought Puerto Rico should take though he encouraged voters to head to the polls on Sunday.
“Elections are the cornerstone of our American democracy and voter participation is our opportunity as individuals to uphold the values of freedom and liberty,” Curbelo said. “As our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico approach the unique opportunity to vote on the fundamental question of Puerto Rico’s future political status, I encourage all citizens to participate in this plebiscite on June 11 so their voices can be heard.”