A 51st state? Rep. Drew Stokesbary says the time has come for the United States to make that happen for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Stokesbary has introduced House Joint Memorial (HJM) 4009 to honor the will of the Puerto Rican people and send a message to Congress that the time has come for them to consider incorporating Puerto Rico into the union.
“This is an equality issue. Puerto Rico has voted twice in the past seven years to become part of our great nation,” said Stokesbary, R-Auburn. “The 3.5 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico want to have equal status within our nation just like the residents of Washington.”
The U.S. government already oversees policy and financial areas in Puerto Rico such as infrastructure, defense and trade.
Former governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño says statehood is critical to their future.
“As the former governor of Puerto Rico, I know that the key to success for the island is statehood and equality with the 50 states of the union. Puerto Rico’s success will be America’s success,” Fortuño said. “Puerto Rico has sent a clear message of support by not only voting for statehood twice since 2012, but by electing pro-statehood leaders at every level. I am pleased to see momentum for statehood grow across the nation, and I am grateful to Representative Stokesbary for leading this effort in Washington state.”
Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, however they cannot vote in presidential elections and do not have a congressional representative with full voting powers.
“It should not go unnoticed, that while Puerto Rico is not yet a state, it has not stopped their citizens from being an integral part of our military,” Stokesbary said. “More than 65,000 Puerto Ricans served in World War II, and 48,000 in Vietnam. Today, many Puerto Ricans are serving here in Washington at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Naval Base Kitsap, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Naval Station Everett and Fairchild Air Force Base.”
A number of other House Republicans have co-sponsored the Memorial including Reps. Michelle Caldier, Drew MacEwen, Dan Griffey, Andrew Barkis, Kelly Chambers, Norma Smith, Chris Gildon, Morgan Irwin and Jesse Young. However, Stokesbary pointed out that the efforts to make this happen extend far beyond Washington state.
“I have been in contact with the office of the current Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló. He is very supportive and appreciative of our efforts,” Stokesbary said. “I would add, other states such as Florida, Tennessee and Illinois have also adopted legislation similar to our memorial.”
House Joint Memorials are used by legislators to send specific messages to Congress and the president. While not necessarily carrying the weight of law, Stokesbary is hopeful the proposed legislation will get the attention of those at the federal level to demonstrate the issue has the attention of many beyond Congress.
HJM 4009 has been referred to the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee. Stokesbary is hopeful the bill will get a public hearing.