On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) and Rep. Darren Soto (Fla.) announced that they would be introducing legislation to make Puerto Rico the 51st US state, The Hill reported. The new proposal to make Puerto Rico a US state also has the support of the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, Del. Jenniffer González-Colón (R).
The bill would establish a process to make Puerto Rico a US state if such a plan is ratified by Puerto Rican voters in a referendum.
In November 2020, more than 52% of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood. The vote came three years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, which helped to shed light on Puerto Rico’s lack of resources as an unincorporated territory to effectively combat poverty.
In a Tuesday statement, Heinrich noted that her own state’s journey to statehood was a decades-long process.
"My home state of New Mexico had a similar struggle to achieve statehood. It took 50 New Mexico statehood bills and 64 years before we were finally admitted to the United States," Heinrich explained.
Last month, Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared that Congress was “morally obligated” to respond to the island’s referendum vote on statehood.
"The US could be expanding by admitting Puerto Rico into the union,” Pierluisi told Axios. “It would be telling the world that it is embracing diversity because this would be a truly, completely Hispanic state."
“We need a game changer in Puerto Rico. And one game changer would be that we get equal treatment in key federal programs," Pierluisi also added, noting that programs like Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit are not available to Puerto Ricans.
While those against statehood argue that such a move could eradicate Puerto Rico’s self-determination and national identity, statehood proponents argue that the federal government doesn’t fund programs to promote economic development in the territory.