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Heinrich pushes for Puerto Rico statehood

Sen. Martin Heinrich

Sen. Martin Heinrich

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico's quest for statehood was slowed for years, in part, because of concerns about different languages and cultures here.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said he knows about his state's history, and it's one of the reasons he'll be leading the push to make Puerto Rico the country's 51st state.

“One of the things that shocked me was how similar the struggle really is, that the arguments haven't really changed,” Heinrich said at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Heinrich said he would introduce a bill on the Senate floor that would start the process for the group of islands that make up Puerto Rico for statehood. He's working alongside Rep. Darren Soto, D-Florida, and Jennifer González-Colón, Puerto Rico's nonvoting member of Congress, on the Puerto Rico Admission Act.

“It is long past due for the millions of American citizens living in Puerto Rico to get the representation that they deserve,” said Heinrich, who sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that holds legislative jurisdiction over U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico.

Heinrich cited a November referendum when a majority of Puerto Ricans voted to become a state in the Union.

“Americans in Puerto Rico reached a clear consensus: their destiny lies with statehood,” said Soto, who is of Puerto Rican descent.

There was bipartisan support for Puerto Rican statehood at the news conference where Heinrich announced his intended legislation.

But Puerto Rico's bid to become a state also has opposition.

In a letter to President Joe Biden last month, three former governors of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Sila Maria Calderon, raised concerns about statehood. Their concerns included how it would affect Puerto Rico's tax structure.

They pointed out that Puerto Rico's more than 3 million residents are divided on the issue, saying only about 52% of Puerto Rico voters said “yes” to statehood during the vote.

“Liberals must view the issue of Puerto Rico status not as a civil rights issue … but as a self-determination issue where all stakeholders are entitled to a fair hearing,” the former governors wrote.

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