US Hispanics Back Puerto Rican Self-Determination Bill

Contact: Brent Wilkes (202) 408-0060

Washington, D.C.--The Hispanic Coalition for Puerto Rican Self-Determination, a broad-based association of national Hispanic organizations, today called upon the Senate Republican Leadership to move forward without delay to adopt legislation extending the right of self-determination to the 3.8 million United States citizens of Puerto Rico. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, the Hispanic Coalition leaders emphasized that self-determination for Puerto Rico is an issue of vital importance to Hispanics. In the face of the Majority Leader's recent statement that it is unlikely that the Senate will consider legislation in this session, the Coalition leaders expressed concern that the 3.8 million U.S. citizens on the Island would again be denied the right to determine their own political future.

The Coalition includes the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; the Republican National Hispanic Assembly; the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); the American GI-Forum; M.A.N.A. (a national Latina organization); the National Association of Hispanic Publications; and, the National Hispanic Policy Forum. According to Belén Robles, President of LULAC, and spokesperson for the Hispanic Coalition, "the right of self-determination is fundamental to American democracy. Extending it to the 3.8 million Hispanic Americans in Puerto Rico is an act of simple justice, fairness, and equality that is long overdue." Robles indicated that "the issue before Congress is whether the United States is prepared to consider granting the full rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship to Hispanic Americans in Puerto Rico. While Puerto Rico has been a part of the U.S. for one hundred years, the Federal government has yet to allow its citizens to exercise their right of self-determination. This is intolerable in the world's greatest democracy, and of concern to the entire Hispanic community."

A recent poll by the Center for Research and Public Policy found that 90% of Hispanics in the United States support self-determination for Puerto Rico. Moreover, a bipartisan poll commissioned by Univision-the Spanish television network-and released last week concluded that 56% of Hispanic voters support statehood for Puerto Rico, one of the three options provided by the bill. The Univision poll, a summary of which is attached, also found that Hispanic voter participation in 1998 is likely to be well above the national average. In view of these findings, Robles noted that "neither Party in Congress can ignore issues of concern to the Hispanic community. Hispanic voters see self-determination for Puerto Rico as one indicator of the Congressional leadership's willingness to listen and act on issues that matter to the fastest-growing and most politically-active segment of American society."

Self-determination legislation for Puerto Rico (H.R. 856) passed the House of Representatives on March 4th. A companion bill (S. 472) is pending action in the Senate. For additional information, please contact Brent Wilkes at (202) 408-0060.

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