Washington, D.C. – Days after leading a bi-partisan delegation of election observers to the island of Puerto Rico, Alaska Congressman Don Young yesterday joined Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, and other members of the delegation, to report his findings and urge his colleagues in Congress to act on the overwhelming results in favor of statehood.
Congressman Young speaking at a recent press conference in Washington, D.C. on the outcome of Puerto Rico plebiscite (click here to watch).
“I was pleased to be an observer in this election; it was one of the best elections I’ve ever witnessed. Very fail-safe, fair and well operated. It made me feel good about the process, “ said Congressman Don Young. “I’ve been involved in this issue since 1996. Had the first vote on the floor of the House – passed by one vote. It is time we stop colonizing Puerto Rico. It’s time that we recognize 3.5 million Puerto Rican citizens of America. It’s time that the Congress steps up and does their job – to take and make them a state as they have spoken. Overwhelmingly – 97%. What we’ll do now, with the help of my good Congressman friend – we will in fact pass a bill or will recognize this plebiscite and make it the 51st state. We are the only ones that have the constitutional authority to do that – the Congress. My interest in this area started way back when. We were the 49th state and I heard the same arguments then. Why should we? They’re a long ways away. They forgot we were American citizens as Puerto Ricans are American citizens… I’m saying it’s time for Congress to act and to make Puerto Rico – as the people sought to do so – a state; the 51st state of this union.”
Thursday’s press conference, held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., included remarks by Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, fellow election observer Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL) and Executive Director of the Election Observation Mission Jason Emert – who organized the contingent of domestic and international election observers. All participants concluded the Puerto Rican status referendum election was conducted in a free, fair and democratic manner.
Following the event, Young and Soto released an official plebiscite report to be provided to the House Natural Resources Committee – who holds jurisdiction over Insular Affairs – and entered into the congressional record. The two also announced their support for legislation sponsored by Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalex-Colon to admit Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the United States.
In separate remarks given on the House floor, Congressman Young encouraged his colleagues to address the longstanding issue of Puerto Rico’s political status – calling for Congressional action on statehood in the near term.
Congressman Young speaking on the House floor in favor of Puerto Rican statehood (click here to watch).
“I had the privilege last Sunday to be an observer in Puerto Rico for the plebiscite and I watched the people of Puerto Rico make the decision that they’d like to be the 51st state,” said Congressman Don Young. “I think it’s time for this Congress to make our 3,400,000 American citizens part of the United States – in full grandeur, as every one of us has the chance… I think it’s the time America should stop colonizing. If I’m not mistaken, this is one of the last nations that has a colony. The great nation of the United States has a colony. I think it’s time that we change that and vote in Congress to make sure we have the 51st state.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) joined Congressman Young on the House floor to share his support for Puerto Rican self-determination and addressing the decades old issue of political-status.
“The Puerto Rican election that was held overwhelmingly voted for statehood as the option of governance they would like to pursue,” Minority Whip Hoyer stated on the House floor. “It is now, it seems to me, the responsibility of the United States Congress and the administration to recognize the overwhelming sentiment of the Puerto Rican people expressed in a free and open election. I want to thank my friend from Alaska for his leadership on this effort."
As Alaska’s sole Representative – the second youngest state in the Union – Young has long believed the American citizens of Puerto Rico have the right of self-determination and deserve the opportunity to decide their own political future and relationship with the federal government. In closing, he emphasized the issue as a matter of civil rights.
“It’s going to take a lot of effort. There are a lot of naysayers out there, but I believe in this issue so strongly that we treat every American equally,” Young said. “ This is a civil rights issue and they have voted 97% in favor of statehood…So I ask every American, think about it, let’s make this the last colony. Let’s make this the 51st state."