Puerto Rico Status Act

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 15, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. VELAZQUEZ. Madam Speaker, for 124 years Puerto Rico, the nation where I was born and raised, has been a colony of the United States.

Invaded by the United States during the 1898 Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico has remained in a state of colonial limbo that flies in the face of the anticolonial values upon which the American Republic was founded.

Congress' unlimited plenary powers over Puerto Rico are reminiscent of the monarchical powers enjoyed by King George III against which the Founders of the American Republic so bravely fought.

If Hamilton and Madison were alive today, they would be shocked to see how the anticolonial Constitution they drafted in 1787 is currently used to legitimize colonialism in Puerto Rico over 300 years later. Advocating now for the continuation of the status quo on the island is the height of hypocrisy.

Colonialism has destroyed the Puerto Rican economy.

Colonialism has divided the Puerto Rican people.

Colonialism has eaten away our people's sense of dignity and self- worth.

Colonialism has made the people of Puerto Rico both psychologically and economically dependent on the United States.

Colonialism is not only humiliating for Puerto Rico, but it is an embarrassment to the United States--the United States that holds itself out as a leader of the free world and that stands up to imperialist tyrants abroad while keeping colonies in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

Puerto Rico's colonial crisis is not a simple domestic issue as some erroneously believe. Make no mistake, Madam Speaker, this is an international issue that directly affects America's standing and image around the world, which is why this double-talk must come to an end.

The time has come to fully decolonize Puerto Rico. It has been 100 years since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Balzac--the last Insular Case--and 70 years after the ratification of the territorial constitution of 1952. History calls upon us to put politics aside and do right by the people of Puerto Rico.

For the last 2 years, I have been tirelessly fighting to craft a bill for Puerto Rico that is anticolonial, fair, and transparent. A bill that will, first and foremost, put the people of Puerto Rico who--since the days of the 1898 invasion--have remained on the sideline front and center.

From Puerto Rico to Florida, and, yes, to the barrios of New York-- the ones I am proud to represent--the voices of Boricuas are now finally being heard. Let us not forget that it is thanks to the vibrant Puerto Rican diaspora from Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx that my colleague, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and I are able to walk these Halls of Congress today.

Today, I stand on the shoulders of millions of Puerto Ricans who had to flee Puerto Rico because its colonial condition has not allowed them to live on the island where they were born.

But Puerto Ricans are strong. They have been kicked out of their home and yet have managed to succeed and flourish in cold and foreign places and have graced us with the likes of Lola Rodriguez de Tio, Maria Libertad Gomez, Nilita Vientos Gaston, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Rita Moreno, Julia de Burgos, and Mari Carmen Aponte, among many others. I feel so honored to be here standing today on the shoulders of all these women and many others who have paved the way.

More importantly, we are here today for the people on the island: those who suffer every day because the prices they pay for necessities like electricity and food are sky-high thanks to the Jones Act.

We are here for those who have lost all their appliances time and time again because we have failed in helping the island to keep the lights on.


Ms. VELAZQUEZ. Madam Speaker, we are here for those who have lost loved ones after Maria, the earthquakes, COVID-19, and, most recently, Fiona.

We are here today because we must move towards decolonization. The current status is unsustainable, fundamentally unfair, and un-American.

The process that has led us to this moment has been contentious, complex, and full of debate. It is no secret that Members advocating for this bill, including myself, hold differing opinions on which noncolonial option is the best for the people of Puerto Rico.

The consensus bill before us today clearly defines Puerto Rico's non- territorial status options; namely, free association, independence, and statehood. It is the first time Congress recognizes free association as a separate decolonizing formula.

More importantly, this bill includes dual citizenship rights under both the independence and free association options like we have in the Marshall Islands or Palau.


Ms. VELAZQUEZ. Madam Speaker, I fought hard for the incorporation of these provisions because Congress has the moral obligation to offer Puerto Rico the necessary tools to transition to a new postcolonial order. And, yes, that includes financial resources to make Puerto Rico whole after 124 years of exploitation of natural resources and environmental degradation.

Madam Speaker, I want to take this time to thank Chairman Grijalva; the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico (Miss Gonzalez-Colon); Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has made incredible contributions to make this bill better and transparent; Congressman Soto; and the staff who worked day in and day out.

Madam Speaker, I ask my colleagues to support this bill.