The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the oldest Latino civil rights group in the U.S., announced Monday its support for Puerto Rico’s statehood, giving new momentum to the debate over the territory’s sovereign status.
As reported by The Hill, the organization’s decision to take an affirmative stance on the issue marks a break with a historical trend in which the status question was considered off-limits to off-island groups.
“The moment is now,” said Sindy Benavides, CEO of LULAC. “We see continuously how our Puerto Rican community is treated as second class citizens — the fact that there are over 235,000 men and women who have served honorably in the military, who have lost their lives, and yet they cannot vote for the president of the United States, it’s a double standard,” she added.
The most recent plebiscite held on the island in 2012 showed that 61.16% of voters on the second question supported Puerto Rico’s admission to the United States as a state of the union.
Although the referendum was non-binding, statehood supporters noted that more Puerto Ricans voted for statehood than for any individual candidate in 2020.
As The Hill continued, support for territorial status has waned in large part due to a series of Supreme Court decisions that made clear that U.S. possessions — except for the District of Columbia — are territories or states, with no hybrid status allowed by the Constitution.
However, the statehood issue has deeply divided the Puerto Rican people, especially those who fear that Congress could make them stateless by simply passing the bill.
Still, the issue is far from resolved.
In a recent radio interview, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) expressed his doubts about Puerto Rico’s chances for statehood in the current Congress.
“Right now, there is not enough support in Congress for Puerto Rico to become a state,” Scott told Acción 97.9 in Orlando, as reported by El Nuevo Día. “But I believe that, as Puerto Rico fixes its fiscal affairs, there will be an opportunity for Puerto Rico to become a state.”
For his part, Benavides said LULAC’s decision to enter the debate came from its own Puerto Rican affiliates.
“Who introduced the resolution was our LULAC committee on the island, and the full assembly across the U.S. supported it, so it’s coming directly from our Puerto Rican membership within LULAC,” she said.