A congresswoman from Florida took to the House floor this week, calling for Puerto Rican statehood.
Honoring the centennial of the Jones-Shafroth Act, which gave Puerto Ricans American citizenship, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., spoke on Thursday and said she backed statehood for that island commonwealth, noting that Central Florida, parts of which she represents, is home to a fast-growing Puerto Rican population.
“A century ago today, a federal law granted U.S. citizenship to individuals born in Puerto Rico,” Murphy said. “Island residents have made countless contributions to this country in times of peace and war, serving with exceptional valor in our armed forces. The bonds between Puerto Rico and Florida are unbreakable. The state is home to over one million Puerto Ricans, with most living in central Florida.
“Puerto Rico is going through difficult times, and I am determined to help the island get back on its feet,” Murphy added. “The main reason Puerto Rico is struggling is because, as a territory, it is treated unequally under federal law. I support equal treatment for Puerto Rico because I oppose second-class citizenship. Ultimately, 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. Puerto Ricans have earned the right to become first-class citizens of the nation they have served with honor.”
Puerto Rico is set to have a referendum in June over what its future status should be with the choices narrowed to statehood and independence or free association. The New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, PNP-PR, is pushing for statehood.
Murphy was not the only member of the Florida delegation to focus on Puerto Rican affairs this week. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined up with U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-NY, to unveil a proposal giving that island and other American territories relief from a health-care tax. The three legislators showcased the “Territory Health Insurance Tax Relief Act of 2017” on Tuesday. Under former President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law, health insurance providers were hit with annual fees, including ones in the territories where residents don’t have access to the marketplaces set up under that law.