Fortuño said he’s convinced that the U.S. Congress will finally take up statehood for Puerto Rico when it is handed results of a plebiscite showing that the majority of Puerto Ricans want it.
“We fought in every single war with courage and valor since we were made citizens in 1917… How can anyone say, ‘I don’t want to hear what you have to say?’ ” he said. “We have never done this before: We have never requested to join the union.”
Fortuño seems convinced that statehood would win. In the 14 years since the last plebiscite was held, up to half million Puerto Ricans have left the island for the mainland, and now the family members they left behind see the benefits of full U.S. citizenship, he said.
The populace is younger, more bilingual and wants a deeper relationship with the country marked on passports, the governor added.
The political action committee formed to push statehood is run by Hernán Padilla, a former mayor of San Juan who now lives in Weston.
“Puerto Rico is currently at a democratic deficit,” Padilla said. “If voters decide, ‘I am happy with poverty, am not interested in Medicare and education; I’m fine the way we are,’ then perfect. But I am convinced statehood will win. It’s just not going to happen from one day to another.”
If Puerto Rico did vote for statehood, it would present the results to Congress, which would then have to order another referendum.
But cynics say Congress might hesitate to add two senators and seven representatives to a low-income state with staggering unemployment, where the majority is not fluent in English.
“What’s important here is to for Congress to step up and say, ‘What are we going to do with Puerto Rico?’” said Fernando Martín, president of the Puerto Rico Independence Party. “Congress has never acted. It always had the excuse the Puerto Rico was divided.”
A prior version of this article said Puerto Ricans do not pay federal taxes. This article has been updated to clarify that they do not pay income taxes; Puerto Ricans do pay toward Medicare and Social Security.