Puerto Rico’s future - and potential statehood - is up for debate on Capitol Hill.
But lawmakers representing New York, a city that has long been a center for the Puerto Rican community, disagree on the best approach.
There are two main proposals for the path forward.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez, the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House, argues the statehood question should not be taken lightly, and says Puerto Ricans should have a chance to decide their own fate.
She, along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is spearheading legislation that calls for a status convention on the island. At such a convention, elected delegates would weigh options as to what is next for Puerto Rico, from independence to statehood to free association.
“The Puerto Rican Self-Determination Act establishes a fair and inclusive process, by giving the Puerto Rican people the opportunity to make their voices heard in two open elections,” said Velazquez, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The legislation is cosponsored by several other New York Democrats, including Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, Gregory Meeks, Tom Suozzi, Adriano Espaillat, Yvette Clarke, Grace Meng, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, Sean Patrick Maloney, Brian Higgins, and Joseph Morelle.
But other lawmakers, including Congressman Ritchie Torres, a Democrat representing the Bronx, say Puerto Ricans have already made their views plain.
In referendums over the past decade - some mired in controversy - they have repeatedly voted to become a state. In November, roughly 53% of voters backed statehood.
Torres is supporting a bill that would clear the way for admitting Puerto Rico as a state.
“Not only has Congress chosen to ignore the results of the plebiscite, members of Congress are proposing to micromanage the process by which Puerto Ricans make decisions about their own status,” Torres said, criticizing Velazquez’s legislation.
The bill is cosponsored by a handful of New York Republicans, including Reps. Andrew Garbarino, John Katko, and Elise Stefanik.
It also has the support of Puerto Rico’s governor, who railed against Velazquez’s proposal at a congressional hearing Wednesday.
“It is the epitome of colonialism. It not only ignores the people's vote, but it also aims to tell Puerto Ricans what the process to express their will should be,” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi told congressional lawmakers.
Wednesday's hearing can be viewed here.
The debate over Puerto Rican statehood comes as lawmakers elsewhere on Capitol Hill are considering whether Washington, D.C. should be a state as well. Previous efforts to advance D.C. statehood have stalled in Congress in the face of GOP opposition.