Back on March 4th, the United States House approved H.R. 856. In response to this, on March 12th, the state house of representatives in Puerto Rico passed resolution 2827. Hereby, we exhort the U.S. Senate to consider and approve H.R. 856.
But some of you might ask yourselves, why do we need congressional legislation? Yes. We may have had two referenda in the past hundred years, one in 1967 and the other in 1993. Those were done exclusively as provided by local legislation.
Still, both were inconclusive. Basic law in both cases was largely due to the democratic nature of both measures. In each case, parties representing the three traditional status formulas were allowed to submit to voters for a version of their own status formula they decide. On both occasions, this led to the inclusion of wishful, yet clearly unconstitutional, elements in each of the definitions.
The main problem, though, has always been with the definition of Commonwealth. There always seems to be so much confusion within the pro-Commonwealth Popular Democratic Party about their status formula that it would be appropriate to ask them, "What do you understand by Commonwealth?"
At one time or another, within the last five years, Commonwealth has included the following elements within its seventeen definitions:
Full partitioning in federal funds as any state of the union without the applicability of the federal income tax on income generated in Puerto Rico.
Power to veto the applicability of federal laws in Puerto Rico.
Power to enter into treaties with foreign countries.
Power to control immigration and customs.
Exchange of embassies with the U.S. Permanent union with the U.S., and permanent U.S. citizenship for future generations of Puerto Ricans.
What is surprising is that such a pie in the sky definition did not garner a majority of the votes in the '93 referendum. Still, such inconclusive results presented another problem. For the very first time, a Commonwealth definition did not garner majority support in Puerto Rico.
That is quite significant, and worrisome, as it put us in a state of constitutional crisis. Because any sort of mandate for the current Commonwealth territorial arrangement does not exist any more.
That is why we, in the legislative assembly of Puerto Rico, have requested that Congress responds to the results. To that effect, we have adapted three separate concurrent resolutions in the last five years, both H.R. 856 and S. 472 are appropriate response to our requests.
Sadly, it has not been surprising that the PDP has cried "foul" throughout this process. Remember, they are the status quo. They would rather leave the issue untouched.
That is why it would be interesting to see what they would answer if asked why they never came before Congress in a full-fledged manner to petition for the implementation of their winning status formula from the '93 referendum. If they are true believers in the self-determination of the four million U.S. citizenship of Puerto Rico, why have they never come before you or the House to work out an acceptable amended version of either H.R. 856 or S. 472?
Or even more so, why haven't they proposed an alternate measure, if their intentions match their words? After all, isn't that the way the system is supposed to work?
The only solution to this quagmire is for congress to define what is constitutional, what is legal, what is viable, and obviously, what is available under each status definition. That would be the only way to end the misinformation and the demagoguery that is the rule of the day whenever this issue is debated and discussed in Puerto Rico.
Still, you may rightfully ask, why now? Let's face it. The most compelling reason for you to act now, rather than later, is the yearly cost of maintaining the current Commonwealth territorial arrangement.
Are you are how much the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico costs to the Treasury every year? Do you believe that cost will ever come down, or stabilize at the very least?
Throughout the last five years, we have managed to expand the economy of Puerto Rico by leaps and bounds, creating over 200,000 new jobs, primarily in the private sector. That is why the pro-statehood party achieved the largest political landslide in Puerto Rico since 1964. Still, unless Puerto Rico is given the tool to better address its social and economic needs, we would continue to suffer from the negative side effects of territorial welfare.
Let me be clear. Most Puerto Ricans would rather have sound economic development leading to the creation of stable and permanent jobs, using the model that has been good for the fifty states.
The alternative that most people do not seem to want, would be to depend on the obsolete economic model long advocated by the PDPs. Not only is this model quite worrisome for the Puerto Ricans, but even more so to the taxpayers in the fifty states.
Why should they tolerate corporate and territorial welfare when, as individuals, they could find better use for that money? Why should a resident of Minnesota or Arizona continue to shoulder the costs of maintaining the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico when the people of Puerto Rico do not contribute a penny to the U.S. Treasury? That is Commonwealth. On the other hand, studies have shown that statehood for Puerto Rico would result in net savings for the federal treasury because of the amount of revenues that would begin to pour in from the island.
In just eleven days, we will commemorate a hundred years since the arrival of the first contingent of U.S. troops in our island. We might respect the wisdom and good intentions that may have characterized U.S. policy towards Puerto Rico. Yet, as an American, it is inconceivable not to desire participation in the greatest democracy the world has ever seen.
For example, how would the citizens of Idaho, or Kentucky, feel if they were denied representation in Congress? The ability to vote for the president of the United States and many other rights and privileges long considered interim of our U.S. citizenship under the pretense of allowing them more autonomy over their internal affairs.
Such is life under our current Commonwealth territorial arrangement. Definitely, it is not, and could never be, a better alternative for the more perfect union devised by the Founding Fathers of our nation. Obviously, Commonwealth is not a substitute for any of the status options that granted the exercise of sovereignty or full self-government by its citizens.
What we see now is an historical opportunity that might not repeat itself as easily in the near future. There will always be a few concerns regarding some important issues. Still, there will be ample time to address these and other concerns later on.
If we wait for the elusive consensus in Puerto Rico regarding this issue, we would see our grandchildren coming before Congress to request action regarding Puerto Rico's self-determination.
This issue is due. Your fellow citizens in Puerto Rico are more than ready.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, we fully support the measures that are under consideration by this committee. Nonetheless, time is getting precious, and these measures might be a bit too complex for the Senate to act on them before the end of this Congress. Therefore, in order to continue with our self-determination process that is absolutely necessary, we propose that in the alternative, you consider a simpler version of either of these two bills.
Such a measure should, at the very least, provide for an initial referendum with congressionally approved status options definitions. May you be guided by the almighty on deciding the fate of four million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico. After all, this is the moral and the right thing to do.
God bless America, and God bless Puerto Rico.
SENATOR Kyle : Thank you. Your invocation of the deity may be very wise for all of us.
Finally, Mayor William Miranda Marin.
MAYOR MIRANDA: Thank you, Mr. Senator. Good morning.
I'm William Miranda Marin, Mayor of Caguas, Puerto Rico, 5th Largest city, chair of the Democratic Party of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and retire Major General of the United States Army.
I'm testifying in regard to H.R. 856 as approved by the House, and S. 472. Both deal with the proposed plebiscite on Puerto Rico political established. Both are thinly disguised statehood bills.
I thank the committee for allowing me to deliver these remarks, and I congratulate the chairman and members for the fair, [inaudible] which these bills are being considered. I only wish that the proposers under consideration were fair [inaudible] as the Puerto Rican people. Alas, they are not. The two measures before the committee, S. 472 even more so than H.R. 856, and strip Puerto Rico of its autonomy's essence, and attempt to put in jeopardy our American citizenship in open defiance of the democratic mandate of the people of Puerto Rico, who created the estado libre associado between 1950 and 1952 as a compact between the United States and Puerto Rico, and ratified it in the 1967 and 1993 plebiscites. The findings of our Commonwealth status involved measures are contrary to historical fact, contrary to the position held by the United States government of Puerto Rico for more than forty years, and contrary to the important judicial decisions by the federal courts on the nature of the estado libre associado.
Based on these erroneous findings, the proposed definition of Commonwealth status, in both bills, the contention that is territorial and colonial is totally [inaudible]. These undemocratic bills offer Puerto Rico every conceivable status action except the action that the majority of the people of Puerto Rico has consistently favored. The estado libre associate is neither a territory nor a colony. The estado libre associate is a unique autonomous and sovereign status of permanent association with the United States, and guaranteed American citizenship. It is a status equal in dignity to any other political statutes resulting from a bilateral contract between the Puerto Rican land American nations. The estado libre associate is also the cornerstone of the staggering economic growth registered in Puerto Rico over the past forty-six years, mainly because our productive creativity and fiscal autonomy, which will vanish under statehood.
Should Puerto Rico be deprived of this vital instrument for growth, and should we be burdened with the payment of full federal taxes, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans will be condemned to live in poverty and unemployment. Many will be forced to migrate to the United States in search of new opportunities.
Many Puerto Ricans who are major components of the productive sector of our economy, fully one-third of the population, will also leave, because of the added tax burden to be paid in Puerto Rico with no significant improvement in the quality of life.
We estados ristas are ready to take part in a fair plebiscite, authorized in the congress and resulting from a broad political consensus. Being a plebiscite where congress commits itself beforehand, and in all good faith, to move forward to implement its resolves. Recognize the estado libre associate for what it has represented historically, and we will tell you how we want it to evolve. Acknowledge what we are, and we will tell you what we want to become.
Why the rush to approve fatally flawed plebiscite legislation, Mr. Chairman and committee members? Why not scrap these two fatally unfair proposals and draft legislation and sent over to Congress and to all these status options? A plebiscite where the custodian of the autonomous direction from the polls will be a sham, virtually devoid of meaningful effect on the fair and reasonable condition.
We establos vistas will never opt for an electoral boycott, which unfair abuses and these respectful legislation we approve, you will not find us at the polls. We will stay away. Not because we want to stay away, but because you will have left us with no other choice. In effect, you will have disenfranchised us.
As a proud Puerto Rican and a good American citizen, I hope and pray we shall never come to this. As a proud Puerto Rican and a good American citizen, I urge you, Mr. Chairman and committee members, to show respect and act fairly toward Puerto Rico and its people, and to turn down any efforts to force statehood upon us. Do not make use lose our faith in American democracy.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I thank you all.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you for your statement. I have a question for each of you. First of all, for Mr. Acevedo Vila. You state that all status alternatives must recognize the sovereignty of the people of Puerto Rico. Given the difference in sovereignty between the statehood and independence, this is almost an impossible condition you're setting. How do you propose that we --
MR. ACEVEDO: Basically, the process has to recognize the power to enter, to maintain the relationship, to enter into a statehood or to move towards independence resides on the people of Puerto Rico. And that's sovereignty.
The ultimate source of power has to be the people of Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico then will decide whether they want statehood, develop Commonwealth or independence. But if not, we're not basically on a self-determination process.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: A question for Mr. De Castro Font. Your suggestion that the legislation must have a definition of Commonwealth, unequivocally ratifying its permanence, and the fact that it can be altered only by mutual consent.
As a practical matter, Congress is rather unlikely to alter the current political status without a mutual consent. On the other hand, the constitution does not limit the Congress for its powers to admit states, nor to dispose of a territory.
How do you propose to formulate a definition that would basically harmonize the practical with the constitutional? In other words, how do you propose a definition that coincides with the constitution and still is as practical objective?
MR. DE CASTRO FONT: Well, as I said before, in the case of the Philippines, to dispose of a territory through independence, and to dispose of Puerto Rico to getting to a new special relationship in '52 for Commonwealth status, you can do that. There's some precedence in the constitution of the United States.
What we are asking, Mr. Chairman, is fair play. We have a definition that was filed by the Party in the House of Representatives, and with that definition, what the same definition that was approved by the whole House in 1990. And I think that's constitutional, and that's the definition that we are going forward with it.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: For Fernando Martin Garcia, in your listing of points, your third point deals with rehabilitation of independence. My question is, do you think that the provision for independence included in this committee's legislation in 1989 was adequate, or --
MR. MARTIN: Well, I think, Mr. Chairman, that the 1989 legislation, it began this process of rehabilitation, and I think it was a dramatic step forward in terms of the traditional view of independence, and we were, at that moment, quite satisfied with that -- with that definition.
At this moment, the elements that define independence, in both the Craig and the Young bill, are, in general terms, quite satisfactory. I think that we have to do some work on the technical language, but we are fundamentally satisfied, and I think that we are, in fact, moving towards that rehabilitation of the independence option.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Question for Mr. Cintron, relative to your measures that you indicate contemplate an allocation of funds to each of the three parties. Given that this isn't a new subject for Puerto Rico, what would you consider to be an adequate amount of funding for the recommendation on political education?
MR. CINTRON: Well, that depends on the standards that we already have in the local electoral commission. We already have experience in other referendums years ago, so we can share with the committee those models we already have in Puerto Rico to adopt the best one in terms of the amount of money for education.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, we would appreciate anything you would care to submit for the record.
MR. CINTRON: Yes, sir.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. William Miranda Marin, your statement suggests that unless Congress includes your definition of Commonwealth, you're going to boycott the referendum.
MAYOR MIRANDA: No, it's not that, Mr. Senator, Mr. Chairman, that we will boycott the referendum. It's that we are being left out. And so we do not have any --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, how can we meet your demand, then, as well as others who may have different definitions?
MAYOR MIRANDA: Say that again, sir?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: How do we meet your demands and others that have different definitions?
MAYOR MIRANDA: For me, it is simple, you know. I think that we should get together and try to get a consensus from the three persons representing the three options that we have historically. But the problem with these two bills is that the Commonwealth is not there. Even the Commonwealth, we have been told for more than forty years that we have, that were set up in 1950 to 1952, is not there in those two bills.
And there has been a lack of consensus, because we have tried, along the whole process, to get a fair participation in it so that we can have our aspirations in those two bills. And we have been left out. So it's not a matter of boycotting the process, it's that we have been left out.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: So if we take your definition, then, we're okay. Otherwise, you're left out.
MAYOR MIRANDA: No. Not my definition, sir. Not my definition, sir.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: All right.
MAYOR MIRANDA: Maybe you are taking me wrong. What I am saying is that we have been not allowed to participate and develop a definition.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Okay.
MAYOR MIRANDA: You know, a definition for a state, you have fifty more. Definition for independence, you have that very well defined. But Commonwealth is a unique status. So we were made to believe that in 1950. And we have been working under those parameters all the time.
Now, you Congress try to change the rules under which we have been living. So I think that we are the majority in Puerto Rico. We should have the opportunity to come here and discuss and get together and see what are the aspirations of our people.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, I think the record should note that this is one of the significant stumbling blocks as we proceed, is the agreement on definitions, because each party and each group has a different view of what the intention should be, and obviously we're going to have to have some finality in this process as we proceed.
I'm going to excuse the panel, unless my colleagues have other questions, and proceed to the next panel. I thank you, gentlemen --
SENATOR KYL: Mr. Chairman, might I ask one question of the panel?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Oh, I'm sorry, Senator Kyl. I didn't see you, over in the corner. Go ahead, please proceed.
SENATOR KYL: No. I indicated I could stay, and I can, at least for a little while longer. I'm anxious to hear the second panel, too, but I would be interested in a very short response from each of the panelists here, if they could.
We all have many things which characterize us, which are our identity. We are many things. I'm an Arizonian. I'm a Presbyterian. I'm a Republican. I'm an American. I live in -- I'm a resident of Phoenix, Arizona. Each of you identify yourselves politically.
Which of these two political statements closest represent your view. Number one, I'm a Puerto Rico with American citizenship. Number two, I'm an American living in Puerto Rico?
MR. ACEVEDO: Clearly number one, and I can assure you the overwhelming majority in Puerto Rico will say that.
MR. : Same. Puerto Rican, American citizen. That's the way it is. And if someone comes to Puerto Rico to get -- as an American citizen, and resides in Puerto Rico, they will still be American citizen. But because they are in Puerto Rico, they cannot vote for the president of the United States. It's the same thing.
MR. MARTIN: I am a Puerto Rican and an American citizen because I do not have the alternative of being a Puerto Rican citizen.
MR. CINTRON: Well, sir, I could be a Puerto Rican and I could be an Arizonian tomorrow if I leave and I move to Arizona, but I'll still be an American citizen all the time, and all the way, throughout the nation.
SENATOR KYL: Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, I don't think that applause is for the suggestion that he could become an Arizonan soon.
SENATOR KYL: But I would certainly welcome you.
SENATOR KYL: Mr. Mayor?
MAYOR MIRANDA: Mr. Senator, I am a proud Puerto Rican with American citizenship.
SENATOR KYL: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much. That was an interesting series of questions you asked, and interesting response.
SENATOR GRAHAM (?): Mr. Chairman, could I ask one question. I guess, Mr. Cintron?
MR. CINTRON: Yes, sir.
SENATOR GRAHAM: In your statement, you raised the same issue that the Attorney General did, and that is constitutional crisis. Could you tell me what are some of the manifestations of that constitutional crisis in the lives of individual Puerto Ricans, or in the collective life of the society of the island?
MR. CINTRON: Well, you could have, sir, you could have a lot. First of all, in my major theme in the House, economic development, you need safety and soundness to create a solid economic model. In United States, in Puerto Rican, wherever.
And if you have an uncertain political model that gives you the safety and soundness in the daily movement of the economic model, and the investment, you could have very high interest, as an example, in everything. In loans, et cetera. Why? Because of the uncertain political atmosphere, that you have in Puerto Rico for a long period of time.
That's why the cost of living in Puerto Rico is very high comparing with the rest of the nation. That's why you haven't the ability to ask for money in capital markets with the lowest rates, and you haven't the ability to buy money on the long run basis for a better economic development in Puerto Rico. That's some of the manifestations you have in Puerto Rico with the people on a daily basis.
Also, you have the manifestation as a social and psychological situation. You are not sure if you are, or you are not. You are an American citizen, but you haven't the right to vote for the man who governs you daily. You are an American citizen, but you haven't the right to have people that are on your behalf at the House or at the Senate, deciding the daily situations that you need to confront.
So you haven't the ability to know where you are, or who you are. And that's a psychological, very, very important effect of this uncertain political status we already have for a hundred years, maybe for 500 years, because we are a colony since 1493.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much. Let me excuse the panel, and thank you very much, gentlemen. And I would advise you that the record will remain open for -- ten days? Two weeks approximately, so you may submit further material, and we will undoubtedly be in contact with you.
We have panel two left, and panel three. Panel two was initially structured to represent residents of Puerto Rico as opposed to necessarily panel three. In order to simplify the process, we're going to have panel two and three together, because we've got enough seats for everyone, and that will take care of the hearing for today, and then we will come back tomorrow at nine o'clock -- nine o'clock, not nine-thirty -- and proceed with the balance of the hearing with various witnesses, members of Congress and so forth.
So panel two, if they would come. We have Arturo J. Guzman, chairman of the IDEA of Puerto Rico. We have Miriam J. Ramirez, a medical doctor, president of Puerto Ricans in Civil Action, and Dr. Ortiz Quinones, Action Democratica Puertoriquena.
And then we're going to bring up panel three, and we will start over where the water isn't spilled, with Joaquin A. Marquez, president of the Puerto Rican-American Foundation. Jose Rivera, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.
Mr. Charles Cooper, Esquire, Cooper, Carvin and Rosenthal, and we can all assume that that's a law firm. Marco Antonio Rigau, attorney at law. David Matta, director of legislative division, National Puerto Rican Bar Association, and Diego Hernandez, former Admiral of the Puerto Rican Navy. The U.S. Navy. That's better. Well, I just gave you a navy.
We will proceed with the lady first. How's that. Are you ready to go?
DR. RAMIREZ: Yes, sir. Thank you.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Please proceed. And again, I want to remind you, that light does work. And it's going to be on green.
DR. RAMIREZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I represent Puerto Ricans in Civic Action. Our organization delivered 350,000 individually signed petitions to Congress seeking equal rights through the admission of Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the union.
This year marks the 100 years anniversary of Puerto Rico as part of the United States. It is an appropriate time for Congress to take action on the status of Puerto Rico.
For us, these hundred years represent a period of great accomplishments, satisfaction, as well deep disappointment. Our journey to full equality under the United States constitution is incomplete. Our citizenship does not carry with us voting representation in this body or in the House, or entitle us to vote for the President. However, you can change that.
The bills you are considering provide the mechanisms for us to finally attain political and economic parity with free peoples everywhere. Both contain three elements critical to accomplish these results: a Congressionally sanctioned referendum and clear definitions of the available status options, based on the fact that, one, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States; two, United States citizenship conferred by statute on Puerto Ricans is not constitutionally protected; and three, the process to full determination and full self-government must continue until such time as we choose a permanent status, which is either independence or statehood.
We are in urgent need for the Congress to provide a clear and precise definition of the status options to be sent to voters. Time and again, the Commonwealth proponents mislead our voters into believing that the United States will create a relationship with us in which we will reap all the benefits of being part of this great nation, with none of the obligations and responsibilities. In past referendums, they have told the voters the Commonwealth will provide guaranteed permanent union with the United States, permanent United States citizenship, permanent freedom from federal taxes, the right to veto federal laws, guaranteed full federal welfare benefits, economic and fiscal development programs, a separate, sovereign, national identity, power to make treaties with foreign countries -- all this under a compact which cannot be modified with Puerto Rico's consent.
Congress has an obligation to define these options correctly. This determines our future and those of our children and grandchildren. Passage to independence or statehood will initiate an immediate reduction in the $13 billion annual United States taxpayer subsidy that goes to maintain the status quo.
No one can longer afford, politically or economically, to maintain a territory that disenfranchises its citizens, deprives them of economic opportunity, and has already cost the United States treasury over $150 billion since the Commonwealth's founding in 1952.
Finally, plebiscites must be continuously held until the permanent political status is obtained. This process has been very frustrating. Despite the support by every Republican president since Eisenhower, despite the support of the Republican platform since 1940, and despite numerous efforts to move this issue forward in previous Congress, Puerto Rico has always come away without final action.
Some question why Congress should be involved in this process. Some have asked why Puerto Ricans don't take the first step and then come to Congress. The answer is simple.
First, Congress has the jurisdiction and responsibility to solve the status issue. And second, we have taken the first step. We began by exercising the constitutional right of redressing our grievances by delivering 350,000 petitions to Congress. Later in '97, the petition was sent by your state legislature requesting Congress to assist us by providing a self-determination process. What more can we do?
We are only asking for the most basic democratic right, the right to vote. Many of the issues against this process that we hear today are similar to those that were raised against other territories. During the late 1940s, Congress would not move forward on legislation for Alaska. The arguments were that Alaska would not survive economically, that it was too distant from the rest of the nation, and that a large percentage of its population did not share in America's culture and social life. Some said California was too barren and empty to survive as a state. Others complained that Ohio should not join the union because a significant percentage of its citizens spoke German rather than English.
The United States citizens of Puerto Rico have been denied for too long the rights and opportunities all other Americans take for granted. I trust that in the end, when the sound and fury has died down, you will cast your votes for equality and opportunity, enlightened as you are, the bearers of the Founding Fathers' principles and the safe keepers of our constitution. Thank you very much, sir.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much. We appreciate your statement, and the manner in which you delivered it within the timeframe. Miriam, we are most appreciative.
Our next witness would be Arturo Guzman, Chairman of IDEA.
MR. GUZMAN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. Mr. Chairman, I request your consent in allowing me the opportunity to submit any additional written testimony that may be required as a result of today's proceeding.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Without objection.
MR. GUZMAN: Thank you, sir.
Mr. Chairman, committee members, the solution to Puerto Rico's colonial status condition can only be achieved by an act of mutual self-determination on the part of the Congress of the United States, and we, the people. The Congress must represent the national U.S. interests by providing the governed with a sanctioned, democratic process that is based upon accurate definitions for the options that it's willing to consider, and the governed must express their self-determination through an electoral process.
The Senate must also recognize, and reaffirm in its legislation, that the essential precondition to mutual self-determination resides in the truthful and accurate definition of the present condition in political, territorial, and individual terms. It is imperative that all legislative initiatives include, in clear terms, the exact nature of the current status of Puerto Rico as well as the exact nature of the current status of Puerto Ricans. In essence, the nature of our relationship and the nature of our U.S. citizenship.
S. 472 meets this criteria and has our full endorsement and support. Nonetheless, this process has created perplexing an contradictory perceptions, only part of which I bring to your attention due to time constrictions.
The people of Puerto Rico must not be blamed, or made responsible, for the results and consequences of the failed political and economic experiment in colonialism that was created and imposed upon us by the Congress. Nor should they be faulted for the partial absence of language skills that resulted from direct political actions that were fully funded by the U.S. federal government and endorsed by the silence of the Congress.
Senators Craig, Graham, and other cosponsors of S. 472 must not be blamed, but admired and praised for telling the truth of our relationship to all Americans. Truths that have been mislabeled as partial to an option. Their critics paradoxically admitting that truth is partial to one option.
But, Mr. Chairman, if truth proves unbearable to the forces of bigotry and prejudice under the subterfuge of language, economics, or whatever, and our people blamed for the actions of others, then I must ask you to withdraw the option of statehood. But if you accede, then I ask you to also repeal our statutory U.S. citizenship, because if you don't, we will come back and back again until we secure for our children the same rights and obligations that you and your constituents possess, those rights and obligations that can be acquired after five years of residence by any immigrant, and which have been denied to the people of Puerto Rico for a century.
Do as you will, but whatever the outcome, don't substitute truth by yet another forty-six years of colonial deceit. If the forces of the evil empire of injustice and prejudice were to prevail, and derail this process by commission, omission, or attrition. Make sure to ponder the consequences, both domestic and international, what standing would be left to our nation when confronting tyrants like Hussein or Castro.
What moral course would remain to ask the rest of the world to embark on a path towards democracy and who allowed their peoples their right to self-determination if the U.S. Senate were to deny these same, basic rights to fellow Americans in Puerto Rico?
Mr. Chairman, this shameful system of colonial apartheid must be ended. It is the wall of that divides the nation and constitutes our own Quebec. This wall separates some Americans from others. On one side, first-class citizens, on the other, those of us who are deprived of our full rights and obligations. On one side, those Americans that, at one time, were forced to ride on the back of the bus, and who have since won their full rights, and on the other side, those of us who, even at this later stage, have not even been allowed to get on the bus.
In concluding, I say to you, members of the U.S. Senate: Bring down this wall. Tear down this wall.
Mr. Chairman, in concluding, and in answer to your question and for the record, addressing a question you asked earlier, whether the members of the Popular Democratic Party or not were threatening to boycott the process, if their definition was not included, I submit for the record today's paper with an ad paid by them in which indeed they ascertained that they will boycott.
And this is yet one more proof, another deceit committed upon the people of Puerto Rico. Coming here and saying one thing, going back there and saying something else, and two days later possibly denying having ever said anything. Thank you, sir.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: That statement will be part of the record. Thank you very much. We appreciate your statement.
Our next witness will be Dr. Ortiz Quinones, Action Democratic Party. Please proceed.
DR. ORTIZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, members of the committee.
DR. ORTIZ: -- from Harvard and Cornell universities, where I obtained a master and doctorate degree. I was as professor director of the school of planning, dean of the students at the campus at the University of Puerto Rico.
I have also served as a member of the planning board and secretary of transportation and public works of the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. At present, I am vice president of Action Democratica Puertoriquena.
Action Democratica Puertoriquena is a nongovernmental, nonpartisan, civil organization interested in promoting political education concerning the right to free determination and the sovereign option of free association of the Puerto Rican nation through a bilateral pact or treaty with the United States of America. Action Democratica Puertoriquena proposes the simplification of the House and Senate bills under consideration on the future political status of Puerto Rico.
To that end, we have suggested a series of recommendations in our written paper. Because of time limitations today, I will concentrate on four of these.
First, the finding contained in the House bill are an obstacle to obtain consensus and totally unnecessary. We propose to reduce them to a single one, limited to presenting in detail the legislative intent of the Senate legislation.
Second, the definition of a new sovereign free association should substitute the option of territorial commonwealth included in both the House and the Senate bills. Let's say that half of the people of Puerto Rico believes Puerto Rico is not la territory. On the other hand, the other half thinks that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. yet nobody -- I repeat, nobody -- thinks that Puerto Rico should be a territory.
We urge you not to offer to the people of Puerto Rico territorial Commonwealth as an option. The House and Senate bills unduly favors the statehood supporters. To present the territorial Commonwealth alternative incorporating Puerto Rico as a territory, together with the statehood option, actually produces a no-win situation for the majority of the Puerto Rican voters, who have never backed statehood, as shown in the 1993 plebiscite, and the latest polls.
That does not support a territorial or colonial incorporation either. As such, these bills do not respond to the internationally recognized right of free determination.
We suggest the elaboration of a substitute bill including our proposed definition of free association as an alternative to be presented to the people of Puerto Rico.
Third, integration to the United States should not be offered if Congress is unwilling to commit itself to an admission of a distinct nation within another nation. If Congress will not agree to admission of Puerto Rico as a state of the union, given our condition as a distinct Latin American and Caribbean nation, this should make it clear right now. Otherwise, Congress will be maintaining illusory expectation impeding a national consensus in Puerto Rico for solving the status problem.
Alternatively, Congress can make clear that the consideration of their request for admission will be undertaken if the people of Puerto Rico vote, and I quote, by substantial number and with a passion, in the correct phrase of President Ronald Reagan, namely, a two-thirds majority.
Fourth, the Senate should include in the legislation design of the ballot for the proposed plebiscite. Said design should not be left to the political [inaudible] in Puerto Rico.
We should hereby suggest a ballot with two quadrants, one for American sovereignty, and another for Puerto Rican sovereignty. Under American sovereignty, with the insignia of the American flag, the statehood should appear alone, since territorial Commonwealth is not acceptable to anyone in Puerto Rico.
Under Puerto Rican sovereignty, with the insignia of the flag of Puerto Rico in parallel columns will appear the sovereign free association option and independence, separately positioned and separately described.
The voters will vote under either statehood, free association, or independence, and the vote of the latter two will be added to produce the total in favor of Puerto Rican sovereignty. In this manner, one of the two options of sovereignty, American or Puerto Rican, will obtain a majority of the votes.
These, Mr. Chairman, are our recommendations. Thank you very much.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much. We appreciate your statement. We move into those who are with panel number three. Joachim Marquez, president of the Puerto Rican federation. We look forward to your statement. Please proceed.
MR. MARQUEZ: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee on Energy and Natural Resources. My name is Joachim A. Marquez, and I appear before you as president of the Puerto Rican-American Foundation. In the interests of time, I will summarize my statement. However, I ask that my full statement be included in the record of this proceeding.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Without objection.
MR. MARQUEZ: Mr. Chairman, I come to Congress today with a simple request: let my people vote. One hundred years ago, General Nelson Miles came to Puerto Rico bearing the banner of freedom, and promised to bestow on us the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our government. One hundred years later, Puerto Ricans are still waiting to be given the opportunity to be given the political to exercise that most sacred blessing of our liberal institutions, the right of self-determination.
Eighty-one years ago, Congress extended statutory citizenship to all residents of the island, albeit a truncated, second-class citizenship that still condemns our people today to political inequality. And yet, an overwhelming number of Puerto Ricans cherish their U.S. citizenship because of its implied promise of equality, which they hope will be obtained some day soon.
How long must they continue to wait before Congress grants the opportunity to realize the full rights and obligations of their citizenship through the exercise of their self-determination? How many more times must we come before you to plead our right of self-determination? Must we wait another century?
Can Congress not see the ugly stain of colonialism that soils the collective soul of our gallant republic? Our new yearning for the sweet breath of equality cannot be long contained by a policy of indifference, or of benign neglect.
No, Mr. Chairman. The question before this body is one of awful moment to our nation. What is the real meaning of self-determination to this Congress? Is it merely a self-righteous slogan? Is self-determination available to all our citizens except those that are poor, weak, and disenfranchised?
What manner of Congress is this, that would deny the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico the right of self-determination out of a fear that they may opt to seek equality of rights and obligations under statehood?
For my own part, I consider this question as nothing less than a question of equality, or colonialism. All Americans cannot be equal, Mr. Chairman, as long as one American remains unequal. Let my people vote.
We cannot vote for the president or vice president. We cannot elect voting representation to Congress. We cannot enact laws that may be judged to be incompatible with the laws of the metropolitan power. We cannot vote on the fundamental question of our future political relationship with a nation whose citizenship we proudly bear, and whose noble principles we defend with our lives in distant fields of battle.
Our people have purchased the right to self-determination with the blood of thousands who gave their last full measure defending those very rights which we seek here today, and which are being denied to their survivors.
What type of self-determination do we seek? I submit that we seek informed self-determination. Because of Puerto Rico's colonial status, any federal legislation providing for self-determination must unambiguously set forth only those alternatives which are compatible with the constitution and which are acceptable to the Congress.
In simple English, the U.S. is the colonial power. Congress must tell us what is acceptable to it. They need not be extensive definitions, but they must be sufficiently clear that they cannot be misconstrued by self-serving politicians during the referendum that will soon follow.
Please bear in mind that in order to have a valid exercise of self-determination, Congress must first clearly set forth definitions that fit within the rubric of the constitution and that will be acceptable to the Congress, and then, Congress must let my people vote.
In this new era of communications that has truly turned our world into a global village, the nations of the world will be watching with interest what Congress does here. Thirty million Hispanics who are already an integral part, and productive part, of our nation, will also be watching with interest.
What message will Congress convey to them? Will its message be that equality and self-determination in America is not available to those of Hispanic heritage? That at the American table of plenty, Puerto Ricans need not apply?
The only way to disprove such a message, Mr. Chairman, is to let my people vote.
I support H.R. 856 and S. 472, because they represent an appropriate Congressional response to the legitimate petitions of the Puerto Rican people. Neither of these bills will create a state or independent nation, nor should they do so. Instead, they begin a process to determine what is the popular will of our people and what steps would need to be taken if that popular will is to be implemented.
The most important role that Congress should play in this process is to provide clear and unambiguous definitions for each of the alternatives to be presented to the people. self-determination for Puerto Rico must be a bipartisan effort. It is altogether fitting that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president should bring this shameful 100-year colonial period to a close for Puerto Rico and our nation by letting my people vote.
I wish to conclude by thanking Chairman Murkowski and Senator Craig, Senator Graham, for their leadership in moving this legislation promptly through Congress, and for their courage and commitment to grant U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico an opportunity to exercise their self-determination. The time for legislative action in the last session of the 105the Congress runs perilously short. Indeed, Mr. Chairman, the time for action is now. Let my people vote. Thank you.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much, Mr. Marquez. I'm going to depart to accommodate Senator Kyl, who has one question.
SENATOR KYL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I had intended to question the second panel, and then I was going to have to leave, which I will have to do, but I couldn't leave without first of all, expressing my appreciation to many people who have come to visit me and especially the hospitality that people like Miriam Ramirez have shown me in Puerto Rico.
We first got together in another land, in El Salvador, when people there were having a very difficult time coming to grips with their electoral problems, and we provided some modest, I think, assistance in that situation. And I very much appreciate that.
If I could, I would like to ask one question that plays directly off of the comment that Mr. Marquez just made, and it's a question of Dr. Ramirez. Do you agree that a plebiscite is only -- an effective plebiscite here would only be effective with the United States government providing the wording and the definitions, or is it possible that the vast majority of Puerto Ricans could come together on an agreement on the wording and themselves conduct a fair plebiscite? Or is that just not possible?
DR. RAMIREZ: Well, sir, we've tried that before. We've had plebiscites in Puerto Rico, and the sad part is that each party polls its own because of the electoral process. They all want to win. So they place under each one of their options those elements that they think that the people of Puerto Rico want.
So citizenship is up there up front, and you asked a question a little while ago, asking them if they wanted to be Puerto Ricans or U.S. citizens. I wish you would have asked them, would you relinquish your United States citizenship? No one is willing to do that.
So we could do a process back there and say how we want it to be, you know, self-determinated, but we are going to require from the United States things like citizenship, permanent union, federal funding, we've got to ask you guys. We've got to ask you guys if you're willing to do that, and how much for each one of the options. Because we can't decide for you how far you're going to go with these different definitions, and that will allow us to kind of decide what we want, and come back, and start a process to see whether that's feasible or not.
But we can't even get through stage one. I brought the petitions up here. We had a plebiscite in '93. The results were brought up here, it was marked down in the House committee. You heard here more or less what the aspirations of the Commonwealthers are. Would we be able to get that through a vote in the Senate, if that was the result of the plebiscite in Puerto Rico?
So the best thing that you could do for us is just tell us what we can aspire to, and then we'll make the decision, and we'll go from there. But don't cut us short. We're really at your mercy and at your hands, and this is a very sad thing to say. And thank you so much.
SENATOR KYL: Well, I appreciate that, and Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the passion of all of the witnesses. They've all been compliant with your requests to keep comments within bounds, and I'm sure it's not easy for any of them, and I'm sure all of us can appreciate the passion which animates all the different points of views. And I appreciate that answer very much. Thank you.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much, Senator Kyl. I think that kind of goes to the crux of the dilemma, as we address our obligation, and try and have the sensitivity to recognize the will of the people of Puerto Rico. Because if we dictate terms and conditions, why then you accept or reject, and we are criticized, then, for not being more responsive to the individual concerns, and so we run into this Catch 22.
So we can be as much exposed, if you will, to charges that we've simply dictated a solution, as you reach, you know, your inability to come up with a consensus of what the definitions are. So I think it just is a self-evident reality of what this process is all about. You probably will never have a consensus on definitions.
We can dictate terms and conditions; you can accept or reject. And maybe -- maybe that's as simple and direct as it has to be.
But maybe we'll learn a little bit more from some of the other witnesses. The next witness is Jose Rivera, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. Please proceed.
MR. RIVERA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Jose Rivera, and I am the national chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, an ally organization of the Republican National Committee created in 1974 by then RNC Chairman George Bush, who insured that the needs of the Hispanic community are properly addressed by the Republican Party and in the legislative process. I also have the honor of being the only island resident Puerto Rican serving in the U.S. Senate task force on Hispanic issues.
I thank the committee for the opportunity to testify on behalf of Republican Hispanics across this nation of ours on the issue of self-determination for Puerto Rico. Let me emphasize from the outset -- from the outset -- that while I am a Puerto Rican, my organization represents all Hispanic Republicans, and in my remarks, I will reflect the views and concerns of all Hispanic Americans, not just of Puerto Ricans.
As you may already know, Hispanics who are rapidly becoming the largest minority voting block in the United States, are dedicated in their daily lives to reach a level of full integration into American society. As we work towards that goal, there are many issues that concern us, including finding a means to provide better and more equitable educational opportunities to our children, insuring fair standards for immigrants who are legally allowed to remain and contribute to the economic wealth of our nation, retaining and promoting solid ethical standards and values in society, and yes, allowing an important and considerable group of fellow Hispanic-Americans who just happen to reside in Puerto Rico the opportunity to exercise their right of self-determination.
Indeed, it is because Republican Hispanics support giving these American citizens the right to choose their political future that the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, or the RNHA, in a manner consistent with the position of the national Republican Party, as expressed in our platform since the 1940s, issued a resolution of support last year, and since then has promoted the enactment of legislation to allow for a self-determination vote on the island.
With that in mind, we want to commend you, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership in assuring that this matter is carefully reviewed by the Senate through a series of hearings for developing a thorough and complete record, and for moving the legislative process to a point where your committee is ready to act on self-determination legislation to the full Senate for enactment this year.
Some have argued, and will continue to argue, that non-Puerto Rico Hispanics do not care about self-determination for Puerto Rico, and therefore, there is no compelling political reason for Congress to act this year. To those voices, I say that through my travels around the nation, I have found nothing but support for all Latino groups, especially from my Mexican-American brothers and sisters.
The fact that during the House vote on H.R. 856, a vast majority of the Hispanic House representatives, including all Mexican-Americans across party lines, voted in favor to final passage to show how important this issue is to them.
Nevertheless, some of you may be wondering why, for example, a Mexican-American in Texas, or a Cuban-American in Florida, will care about what happens to the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico. The answer, as evidenced by the growing number of national Hispanic organizations that have endorsed self-determination for Puerto Rico, is that this issue has come to symbolize a concept that all Hispanics deeply cherish: the right to the free and open expression of our desire to fully enjoy the rights and obligations of being part of the world's greatest democracy.
The legislation now before this committee for the first time in 100 years of shared history between Puerto Rico and the United States would create a congressionally authorized referendum on the island's political future. For Hispanics, congressional involvement is essential to the process of self-determination. There is a great difference between asking Puerto Rico to just do it alone, as the Senate did in 1991 -- which is why we are here today again -- and Congress demonstrating a genuine interest in participating in the self-determination efforts of four million American Hispanics.
It is essential that the legislation contain meaningful and clear definitions of the standard options available to the voters of Puerto Rico. Congress, after all, was responsible for creating the current governing arrangement between Puerto Rico and the United States, and only Congress can provide accurate guidance for the voters of Puerto Rico to choose their political future in America is consistent with American law.
The people of Puerto Rico deserve to have an educated vote. The legislation before this committee accomplishes this purpose in full.
More importantly, adoption of self-determination legislation will send an unequivocal message to all Hispanics and Americans that Congress is sensitive to, and recognizes, the fundamental right of all U.S. citizens to define their political future.
As a Republican Hispanic, I cannot sufficiently emphasize the importance of this legislation. Our party has supported self-determination for Puerto Rico in its platform for many years, and every Republican president since, and including Eisenhower, has advocated it. And Theodore Roosevelt, shortly after Puerto Rico became a part of the United States, advocated extension of U.S. citizenship to the people of Puerto Rico.
Failure to act on this matter this year will translate into a denial of affording Hispanic-Americans a voice in the national political agenda. Ignoring the political voice of Hispanics in this country would be ill-advised. Statistics and demographics show increased voter participation in the Latino community, with the Republican increasing its voter registration among Hispanics at a really fast pace.
It is suspected that by the year 2020, Hispanics will be the largest non-white group in our nation, and that one out of every four votes cast will have a Hispanic surname. This is due to the fact that the Hispanic community has a very strong tradition of participating in the political processes that affect them.
This is a defining moment for us, and Hispanics are watching nationwide. If we work together to make our promise of self-determination a reality, not only will America benefit, but Republicans will be able to proudly let all Hispanics know that we believe in what we stand for, and that we are truly the party of inclusion.
Again, Mr. Chairman, we commend you for your leadership for moving this process along, and we move forward to working with you to make sure that the legislation reaches full Senate consideration before the session ends. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Mr. Rivera. Our next witness will be Mr. Charles Cooper, Cooper, Carbon and Rosenthal. Please proceed, Mr. Cooper.
MR. COOPER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appear on behalf of the Popular Democratic Party.
It is common ground among both the proponents and opponents of S. 472 that Congress has a duty to accurately inform the voters about the structure of each status option. I regret to submit to the committee, however, that I believe that the bill before the committee fails to fulfill this duty, because the proposed referendum ballot presents the people of Puerto Rico with a false choice as to their future political status.
The ballot language included in S. 472 contains several fundamental inaccuracies about the attributes of Puerto Rico's current Commonwealth status, inaccuracies that will virtually insure that the statehood option prevails in any referendum, because even those most ardent supporters of continuing Commonwealth status will not likely subscribe to the version contained in the bill.
The chairman has mentioned previously that defining Commonwealth status is perhaps the most vexing problem the committee faces, and I plan to speak to that very briefly here, and I do hope that my more complete statement will be included in the record.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Without objection.
MR. COOPER: I believe there are three principal inaccuracies in the proposed measure. First, the ballot language of the bill denigrates Puerto Rico's current political status by describing it as "an unincorporated territory of the United States." This characterization of Puerto Rico's current political arrangements is simply inaccurate.
In 1950, Congress passed public law 600 which specifically declared that recognizing the principle of government by consent, this act is now adopted in the nature of a compact, so that the people of Puerto Rico may organize a government pursuant to a constitution of their own adoption."
And when Congress later approved the constitution adopted by the people of Puerto Rico, it made clear that Public Law 600 -- again quoting -- "was adopted by the Congress as a compact with the people of Puerto Rico." Accordingly, Puerto Rico is not a mere unincorporated territory subject to the plenary control of Congress. Rather, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized -- and this is quoting the Court -- Puerto Rico, like a state, is an autonomous political entity, sovereign over matters not ruled by the constitution. And the First Circuit Court of Appeals has acknowledged this: "Puerto Rico's status changed in 1952 from that of a mere territory to the unique status of Commonwealth."
The second inaccuracy contained in the ballot described by S. 472 relates to the statement that Congress may determine which rights under the United States constitution are guaranteed to Puerto Rico and therefore to the people of Puerto Rico.
This statement is, I submit, wrong at several levels, but at its base, it rests upon the proposition that Congress has the authority to deprive the people of Puerto Rico of any and all of their constitutional right. Under this view, Congress could pass a law criminalizing attendance at Mass, prohibiting criticism of the United States in Puerto Rico, or denying the right to vote in Puerto Rico on the basis of skin color.
No court, not surprisingly has ever endorsed such a view of Congress's powers in this, or any other, context. Indeed, even if Puerto Rico were still an incorporated territory, the people of Puerto Rico would be guaranteed all fundamental constitutional rights.
Third, the ballot prescribed by S. 472 clearly implies that the people of Puerto Rico are merely statutory citizens of the United States, and therefore that their citizenship is subject to revocation unilaterally by Congress. In fact, the people of Puerto Rico are constitutional citizens. The citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." By its terms, this language extends United States citizenship to persons born or naturalized in the United States land the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is certainly in the United States, as Congress proclaimed many, many years ago in the immigration and nationality act, as well as elsewhere.
Moreover the Supreme Court long ago rejected the contention that only citizens of a state are United States citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment. In the slaughterhouse cases, the Court stated that a person need not be a citizen of a state to be a citizen of the United States.
Thus, it is clear that the people born in Puerto Rico, like the District of Columbia, are constitutional citizens of the United States and may not be stripped of their citizenship by Congress unilaterally.
Taken together, Mr. Chairman, I submit that these inaccuracies are fundamental, and that any referendum based upon the prescribed ballot could not be relied upon as an honest reflection of the voters' sentiments, and thus would be invalid. The referendum authorized by the act would result in two separate, though closely-related, constitutional violations.
First, the act would deprive the PDP and its members of important associational rights. A central tenet of the PDP's political philosophy, as the chairman has previously recognized today, is the preservation of Puerto Rico's Commonwealth status. By denying the party and its members the opportunity to present the Commonwealth option accurately, the act effectively excludes the Commonwealth option, and thus, the PDP from the ballot, in much the same way as an election ballot that excluded the PDP's candidates, or a ballot that mandated inaccurate and disparaging statements about the PDSP or its candidates.
My time has expired, Mr. Chairman. I'll wrap up by simply saying that the second constitutional voting rights problem -- again, it is a related one -- is this. The Supreme Court has consistently invalidated laws that have a real and appreciable impact on the exercise of the franchise by denying voters a choice on the issues.
I believe that the measure, the prescribed ballots in the measure, effectively denies the voters the option of voting to preserve Puerto Rico's true Commonwealth status. And, in the absence of any legitimate, let alone compelling, governmental interest in doing so, I don't believe the act would withstand constitutional scrutiny.
In conclusion, the inaccurate statements contained in the measure frustrate, rather than foster, the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much, Mr. Cooper. Our next witness will be Marco Rigau.
MR. RIGAU: Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Please proceed.
MR. RIGAU: Good morning. I request that the full statement is included in the record, because I'm going to talk only about the summary of it.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Fine.
MR. RIGAU: Thank you.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Without objection, your entire statement will be entered into the record.
MR. RIGAU: Mr. Chairman, if Congress is really interested in solving this matter, the present deadlock problem of the relationship of the United States with Puerto Rico, we must come to terms with the fact that no territorial options should be offered to the people of Puerto Rico. As long as they are offered, we are not solving this problem.
The definition of Commonwealth as it stands today in both the Young and the Craig bills is a problem -- or is the problem. In the same day that slavery is out of the question, so much any territorial or colonial option for moral and legal reasons should be out of the question.
But also, for democratic considerations, economic and political dependence, because they foster a permanent underclass, and we do not want that for the future of our people.
All options, to be offered to the people of Puerto Rico, in any legislation enacted by Congress, the Young, the Craig bill, or any substitute measure, must once and forever dispose of the territory of Puerto Rico. The only valid option under United States sovereignty that should be in the ballot, or can be in the ballot, in the plebiscite is statehood, under the flag of the U.S., if Congress is willing to make that offer, and you're having your own problems internally on that ground, with the terms and conditions that the United States is willing to live with, including the required majority.
Otherwise, the people of Puerto Rico should be entitled -- or are entitled -- to know the truth, that said option is not available to them, if that is the case.
Only when you talk to them straight will those who are in favor of statehood today might start to consider other options for the future of Puerto Rico. You must bite the bullet.
Under Puerto Rican sovereignty, two options are available, according to international law, and according to American constitutional law and American constitutional experience. They are independence or free association. Both options should be in the ballot if you are interested in considering them. In separate ballot columns, under the category of Puerto Rican sovereignty, under the flag of Puerto Rico.
There are no real constitutional limitations to either independence or free association under Puerto Rican sovereignty. It is a matter of political will and public policy as to the terms and conditions that Congress is willing to enact. And you know that in most matters, definitions influence decisions. The terms and conditions of said definitions will make them attractive or not to the Puerto Rican voters in the plebiscite.
Recently, President Clinton said -- and I quote -- the Senate can still consider a proposal that provides for an association between the United States and Puerto Rico based on Puerto Rican sovereignty. Said free association can be entered into by a treaty of union, as you did in the Pacific under both a Democratic President Carter and President Reagan. The proposals already made to Congress by Proella Action Democratia Puerto Ricania and former Senator Hernandez Agosto are all acceptable definitions of a known territorial sovereign association.
As to U.S. citizenship, Mr. Chairman, this is not a complex constitutional matter. Under free association, Puerto Ricans who are U.S. citizens can be, or should be able, to transmit their citizenship of the United States to their children according to the already existing procedures today in the immigration and naturalization technical corrections act of 1994. A treaty of union or the compact can provide for that.
Of course, all Puerto Ricans that continue to be citizens of the United States must abide by the laws of said country, or your country, in matters such as military service, or taxation.
If the United States is interested in military presence in Puerto Rico -- and I am sure they are in military installations, in present level of forces -- then, not to offer U.S. citizenship to the descendants of Puerto Ricans who are interested would be contrary to the support of the security of both parties. I think that loyalty to the common defense and citizenship go hand by hand.
For Puerto Rico to leave the path of dependence and to move into a self-sustaining economy, U.S. funds that are spent today must instead be invested in our infrastructure and financing productive enterprises.
Mr. Chairman, the time to act for this Congress, for this Senate, is now. The United States is seeking a plebiscite in Cuba. They cannot deny a plebiscite in Puerto Rico. Democracy has to come to the Caribbean in both countries.
The United States is talking about self-determination in all of the world. It has to respect self-determination in Puerto Rico, with nonterritorial, noncolonial options, otherwise, that will be a mockery.
We are not interested in being wards of your country any longer. We are interested in our sovereignty and a partnership with you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much, Mr. Rigau. Our next witness will be Mr. David Matta, Director of the Legislative Division, National Puerto Rican Bar Association. Please proceed.
MR. MATTA: Chairman Murkowski, members of the Senate Energy Committee, distinguished guests. Thank you for allowing the National Puerto Rican Bar Association to testify before this distinguished committee on this most important issue for the association, the Puerto Rican community in the continental United States, and in Puerto Rico.
Founded in 1957, the National Puerto Rican Bar Association is one of the oldest and largest Latino Bar Associations in the continental United States, with over 2000 members. For the past two years, its Federal Legislation Committee has actively commented on pending federal legislation and judicial nominations in the United States Senate.
Senator Murkowski, we first want to take this opportunity to thank you for your leadership on this issue, and to call on you, and to members of this committee, to report a bill out of committee no later than Friday, July 24, 1998, one day short of the 100-year anniversary of Puerto Rico's relationship with the United States. Reporting a bill out of committee by that date will lay to rest the oldest fear shared by most of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico, namely, that the United States Congress will never provide them with the chance to express their views based on real alternatives available to Puerto Rico.
Many have asked why Congress must pass a self-determination bill at all. First, our Founding Fathers expressly delegated to Congress in the constitution full and exclusive authority to make all rules and regulations necessary to dispose of territories. They understood the territorial status, the status of Puerto Rico' since 1898, was both temporary and inferior to full independence or statehood, and that it was the constitutional duty of Congress to regulate final disposition of territories under Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2. This means that, as a U.S. territory, the U.S. Congress has the final word as to the parameters of this relationship.
Second, constitutional definitions are necessary. In 1993, local parties in Puerto Rico agreed to have a local referendums where the status formulas would be locally refined. As there was no congressional involvement, each party engaged in creative writing, and came up with definitions which were, at best, legally suspect and inaccurate.
Supporters of the Commonwealth option erroneously guaranteed a permanent union with the United States. The only constitutionally permissible permanent union with the United States is statehood.
It was also promised that Puerto Rico would receive the same level of federal benefits of a state, without being a state, and without payment of federal taxes. This proposal is legally suspect under the uniformity clause of the constitution, and in reality, politically implausible.
Puerto Rican residents only receive a portion of the federal benefits available to continental United States residents. Statehood proponents erroneously guaranteed the continuation of the Puerto Rican Olympic team.
Also independence supporters guaranteed that federal aid would be received after Puerto Rico became a republic. Although the U.S. Congress may indeed do this, it may not be unilaterally guaranteed by a political party in Puerto Rico.
Furthermore, it is clear that U.S. citizenship cannot be guaranteed under any other status other than statehood. The U.S. citizenship of Puerto Ricans born in the island is statutory in nature, that is, it was granted by a congressional statute found at 8 U.S.C.A. Section 1408. As with any other statute, Section 1408 can be repealed by an act of Congress, limiting U.S. citizenship to those Puerto Ricans acquiring it prior to the effective date of the appeal.
Finally, Puerto Rico is currently in the midst of a crisis of constitutional proportions. Even with the flawed definitions of the 1993 local referendum, over 50 percent of the voters voted for an alternative other than the current territorial Commonwealth. If over 50 percent of the citizens of Oklahoma or New Mexico tomorrow stated that they did not consent to the current relationship between their state and the federal government, there would be little question that the union would face a constitutional crisis. That is the case of Puerto Rico, where over 50 percent of the voting population does not consent to the current relationship with the United States. Congress must therefore act without further delay.
Since World War I, Puerto Ricans have given their lives for our country. These men and women were never allowed to vote on the political destiny of Puerto Rico, yet they bravely, heroically gave their lives so that all Americans may live free.
It is inherently unfair to request and accept the ultimate sacrifice for our country while denying the inalienable right of democratic self-determination, and to deny Puerto Ricans the right to vote for president, and to elect voting members of Congress.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of our political, social, and economic relationship with the union, we look forward to a vote of this committee no later than July 24, 1998, and passage of this legislation by the full Senate no later than the first week of September. Justice delayed is justice denied. Do not deny justice to the 3.8 million United States citizens of Puerto Rico.
Thank you, Senator.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much. I appreciate your statement, Mr. David Matta.
Our last witness will be Admiral Hernandez, a former admiral of the Puerto Rico navy.
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: -- the U.S. Navy is also the navy of Puerto Rico.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I stand corrected Thank you.
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: Mr.Chairman, My name is Diego Hernandez. I'm a native son of Puerto Rico, born and raised on the island. I was privileged to serve our country in the United States Navy for thirty-five years before retiring from active duty as a vice admiral in 1991.
If I may be permitted a personal note, I commanded the U.S. Third Fleet in the Pacific during the incorporation of the Alaskan command into the Pacific command. I spent quite a bit of time in Alaska, and in Alaskan waters during that time.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: You've been to Adaic, then.
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: Many times.
During that time, I met someone you know very well, Bob Atwood, the great publisher in Alaska. He told me about his involvement with the long process that brought Alaska into the union as a state. And Bob used to chide me for not coming involved in the determination of the political destiny of Puerto Rico.
And of course, I always pointed out that as a naval officer on active duty, I was proscribed from that role. Now that I'm no longer on active military duty, I feel an obligation to address this committee on the historic issue that you have before you, to enable the people of Puerto Rico to achieve political self-determination.
I do so on behalf of all the Puerto Ricans who have shouldered the responsibility to serve in the armed forces of this great nation, who fought in our wars, and sometimes died, to defend the bedrock principles of this republic.
The history of Puerto Rican participation in our nation's wars is pertinent to the historic task that you have to accomplish. Its story is a study in honor and courage, made all the more poignant by the reality of their disenfranchisement from the very essence of the democracy they fought to defend and uphold.
18,000 Puerto Ricans served in World War I, right after American citizenship was granted statutorily in 1917. During World War II, over 65,000 Puerto Ricans served in the armed forces of the United States. Many brave men lost their lives in that war.
More than 61,000 Puerto Ricans served during the Korean War. During this war, Puerto Ricans suffered more casualties per population than any state or territory. A terrible price to pay, but a moving statement of commitment by Puerto Ricans to the cause of another people's freedom.
In Vietnam, more than 38,000 of us served. Of these, over 430 were killed and an estimated 3,000 were wounded. I was among that number, having been shot down twice by antiaircraft fire by flying bombing missions over North Vietnam.
I was fortunate to escape with my life. Not so Major Fernando Rivas Domenici, U.S. Air Force, whose plane was shot down during a bombing run over Libya in 1986. Four Puerto Ricans have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, one during the Korean War, three in Vietnam. There can be no doubt about their patriotism, nor about their commitment to the Republic, and to the highest ideals of our democratic system, but none of them was ever able to vote for their president, their commander in chief, or for representation in this body with the power to declare ware.
This committee is well aware of the reason why this circumstance came to be. It is self-evident that the attainment of self-government is absolutely crucial for us in Puerto Rico, but from the perspective of the United States, the issue also has important international implications.
During the years of the Cold War, our national security attention was properly focused on containing the Soviet Union, avoiding nuclear war, and maintaining the mosaic of alliances that would allow us to prevail in a global war, should deterrence fail. The axis of attention was east-west. Atmospheric matters did not directly involve our survival as a nation, and it occupied a much lower level of national attention.
Today, our definition of what constitutes national security has changed, and atmospheric concerns have risen to a much higher level in our awareness and our priorities. Now, we all recognize the importance to the United States of hemispheric cooperation on counter-narcotics, banking regulation, the repayment of national debts, immigration, environmental issues, the strengthening of democratic institutions, and education.
These issues are understood to be important to the stability of the countries in Latin America, and thence to our own long-term security, growth, and well-being.
Puerto Rico will make important contributions to the United States as these new issues are addressed, and new multilateral policies are implemented to deal with them.
Puerto Rico will soon become a host to headquarters of U.S. Army south as they leave Panama. As such, Puerto Rico will present to visiting generations of military leaders from Latin America the working example of military subordination to civilian authority, and respect for democratic institutions, which are two of the major missions of U.S. Southern Command in the hemisphere.
For Puerto Rico to request independence, the future of U.S. bases there would have to be legislated with great care, since the Independence Party espouses what they call the demilitarization of the island. Not only will the ability of the Southern Command to carry out its hemispheric mission be diminished if that should come about, but it the training of the entire Atlantic fleet would be seriously compromised if the naval station, Roosevelt Roads, and its instrumented air surface and submarine training ranges are lost to our use.
With these concerns in mind and understanding what is at stake, the Senate now must work its will. We must create a process which enables the people of Puerto Rico to express a preference between separate sovereignty, statehood, or continuation of the current status. This task should be relatively straightforward, but only if Congress recognizes its responsibility to the status process.
What I am asking, after years of silence while serving my country, is for Congress to put the local political parties at arms length. You've heard from them and given them a fair hearing. I was gratified to hear you say in the introductory comments, Mr. Chairman, that Congress should not allow itself to become enmeshed in the self-interest of any local political activity.
I urge you to stop trying to respond to local political parties as the primary constituents in Puerto Rico, and instead, address yourself directly to the people as individual citizens, who are not merely rank and file members of one party or another.
And the most direct and straightforward way I know I have told you what I believe must take place. I believe S. 472, or some measure consistent with its core provisions, will accomplish what must be accomplished, and I urge the Senate to unleash your power so that a moment of truth can come in a relationship between Congress and the individual citizens of Puerto Rico.
Thank you for the privilege of expressing our views.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you, Admiral. I appreciate your statement, and I think bringing in the significance of those who sacrificed so much -- Puerto Rican Americans in our various conflicts -- was something that needed to be put in the record. Thank you.
I've got a question for each of you, and we'll proceed. The hour of twelve o'clock has come, so we'll try and be brief.
This is a question for Miriam Ramirez, relevant to the testimony in which you indicated that the present status should not even be on the ballot in Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans should be made to continue to vote until it agrees on either statehood or independence.
Well, if we're willing to respect the views of our fellow citizens, shouldn't we provide them with an alternative of the present relationship?
DR. RAMIREZ: Well, originally the way the concept of the whole process was construed was that if none of the two options got a majority, basically the present situation is the default, is what remains. But putting the option on the ballot originally has created the idea that one can permanently remain under the present political relationship with the United States that has proven that it doesn't work. That's why we're here, and that's why the status issue has become a 100 year discussion.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, is it because it doesn't work, or that there is a significant population group that wants the other two alternatives?
DR. RAMIREZ: I don't believe so, sir. I think everybody is unhappy with a lot of faults with the present relationships --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Are they unhappy because there's no certainty?
DR. RAMIREZ: That's a reason. We have not been able -- as much as we can, and we've had good governors -- have tried to bring the economic items to a par with the United States. We're still far behind. We have high unemployment. We have low per capita. We're not folded into the United States economy.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: But if we recognize that the issue is certainty, statehood obviously implies certainty, independence implies certainty,
DR. RAMIREZ: It does not.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: It does not imply?
DR. RAMIREZ: It does not, sir. It's producing -- it's causing -- I, myself, I'm a physician. I'm a gynecologist. And I have five -- I'm an only child. I had five children. And right now, four of my five children have left Puerto Rico because they don't want to go through the process of not knowing what, you know, the future is going to be for their children, for their property, and they're relocating, and that's the story of almost two million Puerto Ricans.
We want to stay home. We want to have the opportunity to stay home and know that what we're going to have is safe and secure for all generations.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Would anyone on the panel affirm that Commonwealth can be construed as a permanent status if it's the will of the people of Puerto Rico? Would anyone care --
MR. RIGAU: Mr. Chairman?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. Rigau, go ahead.
MR. RIGAU: Mr. Chairman, we have a problem here with labels. The word "Commonwealth" is such a bad word. You know. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico -- and they're all different things.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Right.
MR. RIGAU: Okay. So basically, we're talking about [inaudible] -- free associated state. We're talking about free association basically. That's what we're talking about.
We're talking about an association between two countries. And that association can be permanent if we enter into a compact to that effect. You know, as permanent as the constitution of the United States is permanent, because there is no clause as to when the constitution will end. You know. It's permanent as long as the people of Puerto Rico, and the people of the United States wants that compact to remain.
But it has to be a compact after the U.S. disposes of the territory in the same moment. It cannot be a relationship, for example, quote, like it is today, like a state, because Puerto Rico doesn't have two Senators, Puerto Rico doesn't have seven members of the House, Puerto Rico doesn't vote for the president, Puerto Rico doesn't vote for the vice president.
Puerto Rico is only like a state because we are on the receiving line. We have to obey U.S. laws, but we have to participate in making the laws.
So I believe we can enter into a permanent relationship through a compact to mutually agreed terms that are mutually beneficial to both countries. Of course, if we decide to change the compact along the road, we will, but I don't see --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Other than independence or statehood?
MR. RIGAU: Of course.
MR. COOPER: Mr. Chairman?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Anyone else want to comment? Mr. Cooper?
MR. COOPER: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I certainly will affirm my view that the existing Commonwealth status is permanent in the sense that has just been outlined. In other words, so long as the people of the United States and the people of Puerto Rico continue to want that status to be maintained.
It is permanent. Neither side can unilaterally revoke that status. And I think that's the essential meaning of a compact.
I think it's instructive to hear what the First Circuit has had to say about the compact, and about the status of the Commonwealth. In 1952, Puerto Rico's status has changed from that of a mere territory to the unique status of Commonwealth, and the federal government's relations with Puerto Rico changed from being bounded merely by the territorial clause, and the rights of the people of Puerto Rico, as you know, to United States citizens, to being bound by the United States and Puerto Rican constitution, public law 600, the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act, and the rights of the people of Puerto Rico as United States citizens.
The status of the Commonwealth as flowing from a compact, a compact binding on both parties, is what gives it its permanence, and only if both parties decide to revoke it -- and I would add, decide to revoke it on the basis of an accurate understanding of what they are revoking -- will that status no longer be permanent.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. Rigau?
MR. RIGAU: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to add something, if I may, very quickly to what he said, if I may interrupt.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Yep. I want to keep your responses -- I want your responses, but I'd like them to be to the point.
MR. RIGAU: You raised the question as to the permanence of Commonwealth. Under the U.S. constitution, there are only three statuses that can be maintained with the U.S. It's either a full state, a territory, or the seat of government.
That's all the constitution provides for -- other than independence, but I'm talking in relationship to the U.S.
When you get to talk about a territory, it can either be incorporated, or unincorporated. The insular cases provide what the tests are, and so on. There is no way under the constitution as provided now, the current colonial status as an unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico, can be made permanent. And it should not be.
MR. GUZMAN: Mr. Chairman?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. Guzman?
MR. GUZMAN: Thank you, sir. I think this makes it more evident for the need in any piece of legislation to include the exact nature of our present relationship, both in territorial and individual terms. As I mentioned, the proponents of these treaties, Senator, are trying to portray to the people of Puerto Rico that the Congress of the United States has the power to surrender the nation's sovereignty to another foreign body politic.
In other words, for all intents and purposes, you may legislate a, quote/unquote, committee treaty, but that has absolutely no binding power on any prospective Congress which can repeal it at will. And this was the basic misunderstanding in 1952 and Senator, I urge you not to repeat it, and gain, fall into a situation where you have such confusion as you have here today.
MR. ORTIZ: Senator?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Yes.
MR. ORTIZ: Mr. Chairman?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Please proceed.
MR. ORTIZ: I would only want to say something. Puerto Rico -- I think that you should consider what is Puerto Rico. Not only that, that we are living in almost at the end of this century. We cannot deal with the problem of Puerto Rico in an orthodox way. We have to find an unorthodox solutions.
We cannot deal with definitions when you invaded us in 1898. We are in 1998. We are not the Dominican Republic. We are not even countries that were set free in the '50s and the '60s.
You have to understand, Puerto Rico as a nation wants to develop its own cultural personality, and not only that, it is that we are almost close to the year 2000, and the global economy, and so forth.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, obviously we don't have a pattern for a resolve of the points that have been brought up in this discussion, I think it's fair to say that when we fought a war, the Civil War, to dissuade states from leaving the union, and for other reasons as well.
As far as independence is concerned, we've never taken anybody back we've let go.
MR. ORTIZ: Texas became a state after it became a republic.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: That's true. Yeah. Counsel suggests it was not ours before then.
MR. ORTIZ: It was formally not yours, but it was your people in there.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I'll let you and the counsel discuss that. Other territories have been incorporated. Puerto Rico has not been incorporated as a territory, so it's got a unique status, so we're still proving ground and setting precedent for whatever that observation is worth. Which means simply we've got a lot of work cut out for us to try and address the broad concerns as evidenced by this hearing.
Another question I have for Mr. Guzman. You suggest that additional economic projections are needed. Are you suggesting that consideration of the legislation be delayed until that information is obtained?
MR. GUZMAN: Under no circumstances, Senator, and I am very happy to report that a letter in reply to Senator Nickle's inquiry was made by the General Accounting Officer, which indeed addresses some of the concerns that I had expressed in my written testimony.
Many of those, within the next ten days or two weeks, would be more than willing to submit additional territory, as I had requested, on the economic imbalance of some of the information that you had received prior to this hearing.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Question for Mr. Ortez Quinones. Relative to proposing additional definitions, wouldn't you agree that we should try to find a suitable definition for a separate sovereignty that allows the possibility of full independence, or a negotiated relationship of free association in trying to spell out the essential elements?
MR. ORTIZ: Yes, I think you should. And we like to remind you that our president, Mr. Emilio , sent you a letter on April 13th outlining what our definition of free association was, and also he testified on last June 23, and there are the elements of our definition of free association.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I am advised by counsel that that was included in the record in the last hearing.
Mr. Marquez, relative to the minimal definitions of each status, are you prepared to -- or would you be kind enough to submit for the record your proposed definitions?
MR. MARQUEZ: Yes, Mr. Chairman. I'd be very pleased to do so very quickly.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: And Mr. Jose Rivera, the essential elements of any legislation in your point of view, are what?
MR. RIVERA: Mr. Chairman, very simple. I am not a lawyer, so I'm not going to get involved in this legal mumbo-jumble that I --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: That's okay.
MR. RIVERA: But we need to let our people know exactly what they're voting for, and exactly what this Congress is willing to accept. It's up to you to decide that. It's -- like somebody on the panel said before, I don't think the political parties should be involved in that. It should be the Congress talking to the people. This is what we are willing to give you. You decide what you want to do.
And, if I may add something else, Mr. Senator, regarding the question before -- like I said, I'm not a lawyer, but there is something definitely wrong when my eighteen-year-old daughter, who goes to Marquette University, she is going to be a sophomore this year, so now that she's been living in Milwaukee for a year, she can choose whether she wants to register. in Wisconsin or not. And if she does decide so, she can become a first-class citizen, and she can vote for her Senators, her Congressman, her Governor, have all the benefits, while I, who am the one paying for her to be there, don't have that right.
MR. RIVERA: So there's something definitely wrong there.
MR. RIVERA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, for whatever it may be worth, Mr. Rivera, you may some influence on your daughter, or you may have absolutely none, which is more likely the case, as how she may or may not vote.
Question for Marco Antonio Rigau. You suggested 90 percent of the Commonwealth supporters oppose a territorial relationship and would support free association.
MR. RIGAU: Yes.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I wonder if that would be true if Congress were unwilling to agree to a continuation of U.S. citizenship?
MR. RIGAU: I don't think that would be the same situation. That's why you must make a decision as to definitions, because definitions, to a large extent, will decide the electoral results.
Now, there are polls by newspapers, and there are also -- there were also hearings on the Popular Democratic throughout Puerto Rico, and 90 percent of the people testifying in those hearings, they were in favor of sovereignty in Puerto Rico.
I was pleased to listen to the president of our party say so here in this hearing. He said all three political options should be recognizing the sovereignty of the people of Puerto Rico.
And it's a matter now of the Senate and the House, of making the decision where they are going to abandon the 19th century view of citizenship and enter into the next century view of citizenship, because for example, last -- there are many Mexicans who are dual citizenship today. Dual citizenship is becoming -- and even triple citizenship, you know.
The notion that you can only have one citizenship is absurd. The United States can enter today into a treaty of common citizenship with Great Britain, and if they understand that's in their interests. In Europe, many countries have treaties of dual citizenship. The former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Seaga, while he was prime minister of Jamaica, he was as U.S. citizen.
So this whole notion that you can only have one citizenship is a 19th century view, and it has nothing to do with the future world, where most people will have more than one citizenship in many instances. Of course, membership has its privileges. It also has its duties and its dues.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. Matta, we would appreciate having any amendments or changes that you would suggest in either of the measures, so please feel free to submit for the record.
MR. MATTA: Senator, the only -- we will submit the changes, but right now, the changes I can advise is -- as to the language, as Senator Landrieu mentioned at the beginning, we shouldn't fix what's not broken. The good states of New Mexico and Hawaii right now have two official languages. Puerto Rico has had two official languages since 1902. We shouldn't add that language.
And I think the findings are superfluous, but I can add that to the record later.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you.
Mr. Cooper, would you provide the committee with what you consider a brief but accurate definition of Commonwealth?
MR. COOPER: Mr. Chairman, I'd be happy to do that, yes.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: And Admiral, you've heard some witnesses ask for a definition of free association that includes separate sovereignty for Puerto Rico while retaining United States citizenship. Would you support such a definition, or do you think the citizenship should follow sovereignty? In other words, U.S. citizenship with U.S. sovereignty, or Puerto Rican citizenship with Puerto Rican sovereignty?
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: In my opinion, sovereignty and citizenship are inseparable, constitutionally and legally. And if Puerto Rico were to be an independent state, then they necessarily would have to be independent citizens of that country.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Just a couple of questions for the panel in its entirety. Are you prepared individually and, if it's appropriate, collectively if you're representative of groups, to accept -- and when I say "accept," I mean for consideration, to either accept or reject the dictate of a congressional formula that would be presented with consideration of your input, but not necessarily guaranteeing that there be any input, because obviously the Congress acts as the Congress acts.
And the disposition, of course, would be yours to accept or reject, and is there anyone that would --
MR. MATTA: If I may, Senator --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: -- that process in its entirety, or are you indicating that you would be inclined to accept that the will of Congress is dictated in an opportunity for you to accept or reject.
MR. : As I mentioned in my paper, Senator, constitutionally, the responsibility falls with Congress. The relationship phase is transient. This is a negotiation between two unequal powers. That's really the problem. It's --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Yes, but --
MR. MATTA: You have to --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Go ahead and answer my question, if you would.
MR. MATTA: Yes. And we hope that the Senator would come out with a definition, so that we can --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. Rivera? I'd kind of like to get a yes or no, and if you want to say no, you can elaborate a little bit.
MR. RIVERA: Like I said before, I'm not a lawyer. My wife is, but I'm not. So I'll be clear. Mr. Senator, Mr. Chairman, you have the power. Go ahead and do it. We'll accept whatever you decide.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: And you'll accept or reject it.
MR. RIVERA: Yes. We'll accept or reject it.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. Marquez?
MR. MARQUEZ: Mr. Chairman, we do. We accept it unequivocally. I will consider whatever you decide. If you include a definition that includes sovereignty in Puerto Rico, and an association with the United States under a treaty of union, under the treaty clause, with dual citizenship, I will not only consider it, I will endorse it.
MR. ORTIZ: I will say the same thing that he says, adding that I don't think -- or I would say, to me, it's not acceptable that Congress legislate without knowing what is important, or what are the aspirations and ambitions of the people that Congress is legislating.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Ms. Ramirez? Madam?
DR. RAMIREZ: I abide by the definition of Congress, but I would like Congress to define. I would like Congress to clarify the citizenship issue, and not let it with ambiguous language that will bring a problem when we vote back home, and all the big publicity campaign starts, and then we can't refute that.
So I think that has to be clarified. And I have always asked my friends here on the panel who support free association and independence, they've never really answered the question, why do they want U.S. citizenship. I really think they want it for the money, because I don't -- I haven't been able to get a response from them, of why they want U.S. citizenship.
MR. ORTIZ: I think that, for example, you have the problem, or not the problem, but the situation of the American Indians. And they are, in their tribes, they are sovereign, and they have the citizenship of the state where they reside. So double citizenship, I don't think it is something that is new to the United States.
MR. RIGAN: Mr. Chairman, it's a matter of small personal privilege. We are not seeking dual citizenship for the money. It is not us who are saying that statehood implies a lot of money for Puerto Rico. We are seeking it because we want an association without economic dependence, but with dual citizenship. And we make that proposal, we respect your proposal, and I ask you to respect ours.
DR. RAMIREZ: They still don't answer the question, sir.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well.
MR. GUZMAN: Mr. Chairman, may I?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. Guzman, go ahead.
MR. GUZMAN: Thank you, sir. I don't think it is up to us to either accept or reject, with all due respect. I think you are fulfilling your constitutional obligation, and secondly, you are exercising what I, in my position paper, term as mutual self-determination. You have a constitutional obligation, of course, to our fellow citizens in the United States, and that is only fulfilled by providing viable alternatives which meet with constitutional parameters.
So in essence, your part of this self-determination process is in providing these definitions. Our part in accepting or rejecting comes at the time of voting.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you.
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: Mr. Chairman, I believe it's imperative that the Congress define, clearly and unambiguously, what each of these three options means to this body. That we'll take it from there and vote on our choices. But the definition must come from you.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. Cooper?
MR. COOPER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am quite certain that the Popular Democratic Party will, very carefully and with great respect, consider whatever ultimately emerges from this committee and this body.
I do not believe that the PDP could oblige itself to accept whatever might come forth if, for example, the definition of Commonwealth was inconsistent, after that considered and careful review, inconsistent with the ultimate judgments about the Commonwealth and its features, arrived at by the leaders of the party.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: So then you'd just reject it?
MR. COOPER: Excuse me?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Then you would reject the will of Congress, if it came down with a definition that was unsuitable, in your opinion? You'd just basically reject whatever the structure of the package was. If it was all three choices, you would reject it for the reason that it failed to meet an adequate definition. Is that --
MR. COOPER: I think that's right. I think rejected and otherwise exercise their rights as American citizens to reject it, both in the ballot box, and to perhaps challenge it in other forums.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: One of the other observations that has been made, and it has a certain sensitivity depending on, you know, whether a Puerto Rican-American or an American that lives in Iowa or Michigan, or whatever, and that is the uniqueness that it's a Puerto Rican first, and then an American, as opposed to what most Americans consider themselves, as Americans. Whether they live in Alaska, Hawaii, or whatever, we don't think of ourselves necessarily as American-Alaskans or Alaskan-Americans.
So Puerto Rico is a bit unique in that regard. Now there are other areas where there is a connotation of the identity of the country, and of course, it's understandable, knowing the history of Puerto Rico, and the fact that Puerto Rico was a war prize, basically.
So -- yet, when Puerto Ricans are asked the question, "What are you?" 90 percent respond, "A Puerto Rican-American." It tells the story, but it does ring a little alarm bell in the minds of many Americans, simply because there's suddenly an awareness that Puerto Rico is first, as opposed to American.
That being as it may, the next issue --
MR. MATTA: That's the story of colonialism.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: The next issue that arises in the minds of non-Puerto Rican-Americans, if I may put it that way, is the question of education and the necessity of having a good understanding of English. And of course, we debate this in New York. We debate this in Texas, New Mexico, other states where we have relatively large populations of Hispanics, and we -- the jury is still out on the issue.
But it's my understanding that your laws are codified in English. And my question is --
MR.RIGAU: We legislate in Spanish, and the Supreme Court has decided that the court system in Puerto Rico is completely in Spanish. Completely.
DR. RAMIREZ: Not the federal court.
[Simultaneous remarks. Unintelligible.]
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: You see, this -- it's my understanding the federal laws are codified in English, and the Puerto Rican nonfederal laws are in Spanish. And I see enough head going up and down, I'm inclined to believe that.
MR. : No, sir. They're in both languages.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: All right. Well, let's put it this way --
MR. MARGUEZ: The official languages act in Puerto Rico. They have to be in both languages, and they're coequal.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Now, relative to the level of educational direction relative to the English language, recognizing that the first language of Puerto Rico is Spanish, what guarantees should there be -- and it's not relative to Congressional action, but it's a consideration that's on the minds of many who will be playing a role in the debate on the disposition of Puerto Rico.
What language should English play in the opportunities, if you will, for Puerto Ricans to recognize that, as part of -- as American citizens, there is also an implied obligation, let me put it that way, to have an understanding of English at an adequate level.
MR. GUZMAN: Mr. Chairman?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Got anybody that wants to wander into that needle?
MR. GUZMAN: May I? Because it was an oblique remark, in my statement, and for many, many, many years, language has been used as a political tool in Puerto Rico, where it should belong in the educational field.
It is very common because, as you know, language, as any other form of education, means empowerment for the citizenry. And the only way that Puerto Ricans could be kept as peons in this colonial ensemble was by denying them the right to learn English, and that way they would have to remain in the island.
While I believe that it is the right of every American child to learn English -- is their right -- it is also their right to learn as many languages as they wish. That is their more powerful and the greatest richness in every aspect that they bring to the nation.
But to use as the administrations of the Popular Democratic Party did, in eliminating English as a language in the public schools, it's really a crime against all the children that are born to a life of lower salaries and less rights. Giving them, Mr. Chairman, the empowerment of English, also meant that they would demand equality in their rights, and equality in their citizenship.
DR. RAMIREZ: I have something to add to that. It's always amazed me that, after 100 years, where we've been citizens, and we've been in a territory of the United States, now all of a sudden people are concerned because we speak Spanish. Why did you let 100 years go by without worrying about it until now? It just doesn't make any sense.
I have been asked by people, we're bringing in a state -- I wonder if people realize, we've been there all the time. We have been United States citizens all the time.
And that question you said about Puerto Rican and American? When you come up to the States, and even when you fill out some forms, when you go to work, or something, they ask you if you're Puerto Rican. That's part of -- it just gets into you, because people ask you up here to define yourself as a Puerto Rican.
Some fifty years ago, you were either Caucasian or black, or -- now you're Puerto Rican. That's up here. That's not us who are saying we're Puerto Ricans. That's like asking a black, are you black or are you American? It's the same question, basically.
People in Puerto Rico don't want to renounce United States citizenship. They want to remain citizens. They believe in the system. They really, truly believe.
They believe in the system. They believe in the constitution. They believe in the United States. They believe in the flag. And it's been misconstrued by some, by a few in Puerto Rico, to project the idea that we're not -- that we don't love those constitutional rights, and those symbols.
And it's wrong. It's wrong, sir. And we have been here. We're Puerto Ricans. We're U.S. citizens. We've been here for a hundred years, and we're asking the United States to treat us the same as everybody else, and allow us to vote to have that possibility.
ADMIRAL HERDANDEZ: Mr. Chairman?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Would you accept English as not necessarily the first language, but English at a level that would ensure that children can function in America?
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: Mr. Chairman, may I wander into that thicket?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Let's start with the Admiral?
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: May I address the point of language? I think it may be an overly emphasized point.
English is the language of the planet. I was a naval aviator. I flew all over the world, off aircraft carriers, and I can talk to a Japanese controller in English, or in Italy, or in Greece. The language of aviation is English.
English is the language of medicine, or science, of industry, of economics on the planet Any place that wants to live in the next century has to be able to be fluent in English.
Puerto Rico is not excluded from that. We are fluent in English. But you don't have to legislate it. It's a desirable thing to be multilingual. It's a desirable thing to be multilingual. English is not legislated anyplace else in the United States. It shouldn't have to be legislated in Puerto Rico either.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, in your opinion, is the level of opportunity for children to learn English adequate in Puerto Rico as it exists today?
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: I'm a product of the local school system of Puerto Rico.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, while I appreciate the response, that doesn't give me the reassurance that you might be a bit exceptional, as well, based on your career and opportunities. I'm simply saying, in your view of the Puerto Rican education system, is there adequate opportunities, or should it be a mandate?
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: I don't think it should be a mandate, Senator. I think that, as a matter of course, everyone in Puerto Rico is learning English and want to participate in the world economy. That's the only way to do it.
MR. RIVERA: Mr. Chairman?
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: It can be strengthened.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Do others agree with that?
MR. RIVERA: Mr. Chairman, I think that the states' responsibility is to provide with the opportunity and the facilities for English, for any other language, to be taught. But it is the responsibility -- and I'm doing to be a little redundant here -- it is the responsibility of responsible parents that want their children to succeed in this world that we live today, that cannot go anywhere they don't know the language of English, regardless of it's in Puerto Rico, or in China, or in Japan, or in -- anywhere else in the world.
It is our responsibility as parents to make sure our children learn, because it's to their benefit. And this is not a political balloon. It is just a simple fact of the globalization that we are living. We have to learn English regardless of what happens with our political status, and it is the parents' responsibility to make sure that their children learn. Because if their parents are not there, they're not going to learn.
And if I might add something else, Mr. Senator, the United States is quickly becoming one of the largest Hispanic nations in the world. I go to Miami, and I don't need to speak English. I go to L.A. and I don't need to speak English. I go to Dallas and I don't need to speak English.
So this whole political balloon of whether we need to learn English or Spanish, or any other language, for that matter, it's just that. It's a political balloon.
We are willing to teach our children, and I think that's where the buck should stop. Thank you, Mr. Senator.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, I think it's fair to say that as we understand the situation with the educational system in Puerto Rico, Spanish is the first language. English is mandatory, but if the youngster just takes English as a class and doesn't have an opportunity to speak English, it can be very quickly lost, and I don't know what the alternative to that is, other than when I go to Houston, I am happy that I can speak English, because I can get by.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: So I guess we're both fortunate.
Well, I think we have identified, certainly, the concerns that some members have over the language opportunities for particularly the young people and, you know, how that's addressed. I --
[BEGIN TAPE 3]
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I would conclude the hearing now, unless anyone has a final statement that they want to make, and they're only going to get thirty seconds, but I'll give each of you thirty seconds.
Mr. Matta, you volunteered.
MR. MATTA: Senator, I do have to address a point you made. Where I come from in New York, people -- anyone you ask in a street will refer to themselves as Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, or Jewish-Americans, and no one ever questions their loyalty to America.
And we are, of course, proud to be Americans. It's just a matter of semantics that people use the word Puerto Rican first."
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: That's a good point. Anybody else?
MR. MATTA: And, if I may, for the last ten seconds, we've had ten years of focus on this legislation. It's actually been a hundred years in the struggle. I know the good Senator has only taken this over in the last few months.
All hundred years has not been on your shoulders, but it has been a struggle. Please, Senator, expedite this.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Anybody else? Mr. Guzman, you've been gone while we've been resolve the issues.
MR. : One last question, one last statement. Please bite the bullets.
MR. MARGUEZ: Mr. Chairman, we love this country. It's been a hundred years. The time for action is now. Please resolve this problem now. Don't make us wait another hundred years. Don't make us all come here again, and plead for our rights.
MR. GUZMAN: In closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you again for your efforts on our behalf. You have three-and-a-half, almost four million fellow Americans in a state of limbo. It's either remaining in this limbo, or making a transition to being first-class Americans, or first-class Puerto Ricans, but not second-class Americans and second-class Puerto Ricans.
MR. RIVERA: Mr. Senator, if I may?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Yes.
MR. RIVERA: Mr. Senator, I would like to thank you for your efforts. I want you to know that my organization will endorse whatever legislation comes out of this Senate, this body. The Republican Party is behind you. The Hispanics of all nationalities in the United States are waiting for this, and we will urge you to act now, Mr. Senator. Thank you very much.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you. Admiral?
ADMIRAL HERNANDEZ: Just one last comment, since you invited a thirty-second comment. Senator, I think a simplified bill this year -- I know time is short, but I know a very simplified bill this year, on the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Americans, will really mean more than a very comprehensive bill next year. So I urge you to try to get that done this year.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. Cooper?
MR. COOPER: Thank you. I just want to react to the point made earlier that the Commonwealth status should not be on the ballot at all. I think it obvious that, if that were the case, the true sentiments of the people of Puerto Rico would not be known by any referendum that took place without it, and an inaccurate description of Commonwealth would be effectively tantamount to excluding it.
In concluding, I just want to thank the Chairman and this committee for welcoming the thoughts of the PDP and the other people that you've heard from today.
DR. RAMIREZ: Senator, the Commonwealth is on the ballot, and the people don't want it. They reject it. So.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, let's just finish.
MR. : Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for your attention and consideration, and I think you should act, but I think if you act, please do not act with the premise that Puerto Ricans are residents of the United States living in Puerto Rico, but are -- Puerto Rico is a nation.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I want to thank the panel and announce that at nine o'clock tomorrow morning, we will resume. We will have Senator D'Amato, Senator Lieberman, Senator Torricelli, the Honorable Nydia Velasquez, Congresswoman, Congressman Jose Serrano, Luis Guitterez of the House, and the Honorable Carlos A. Ramero Barcello who's here today, Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner.
The administration will be represented by Jeffrey Farrell, co-chair of the White House task force on Puerto Rico. He will be accompanied by representatives of the Department of Justice, whom I suspect will probably have a few more. And we will also limit their time, as we have you people.
And I do want to thank you for staying within the time limits. Your testimony has been invaluable to the committee. The hearing is adjourned. I wish you a good day.
[End of proceedings as recorded.]
See Transcript of Second Session, 7/15/98