Puerto Rico Herald
Congressional Redistricting-A Solution For The Democrats
By Gene Roman
February 22, 2002
The politics in New York and around the country are about to get pretty rough. State legislatures are preparing to redraw congressional districts based on the results of the 2000 census. Congressional representatives and their supporters are hiring high-priced lobbyists, playing kissey face with legislative leaders, and preparing extensive outreach campaigns to protect their respective turfs.
As a Democrat, I have a solution that benefits the states of New York and Illinois, and our party as a whole. Representatives Nydia Velazquez of NY and Luis Guitierrez of IL should voluntarily resign their seats, or be selected as the Democratic representatives from their respective states to lose their seats. Heres why.
During the 105th Congress, they were two of the strongest opponents of the Young Bill: United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act. This historic legislation would have authorized a congressionally sponsored referendum to permanently resolve Puerto Rico and the Nations 100 year-old colonial dilemma. If it had become law, Puerto Rico would have had the same opportunity given to every other U.S. territory, namely, to permanently decide the nature of its relationship with the United States. In an ideal world, that would mean choosing between the only two options that lead to permanent resolutions-statehood or independence.
Their obstructionist strategy was based on demagogic and xenophobic appeals to the Republican right that exposed what seemed like a deep sense of self-hate in Gutierrez and Velazquez. Before and during the Young Bill debate, Gutierrez attempted to portray the Island as a foreign country by claiming that "Puerto Rico is a nation and that "Nations have a common land, language, life and history, which translates into a common culture." Cant the same be said of our fifty states and their residents? Arent the land, life, history, language and culture of New York different from that of Louisiana or Texas? We speak more Spanish on the east coast and in California than our counterparts in North or South Dakota, but we all still live within the federal union of states as first-class citizens.
Their last attempt at delaying the legislative process involved chiming in with the colonial Popular Democratic Partys argument that the process was unfair because the proposed status ballot did not make their "best of both worlds" Commonwealth definition a permanent fixture of the Constitution.
Both Congress and the federal judiciary have consistently refuted any notion that Puerto Rico could exist as an autonomous political entity, that is neither colonial nor territorial, in permanent union with the United States under a covenant that cannot be invalidated or altered unilaterally.
On January 18, 2001, the U.S. Department of Justice issued the most recent analysis of Puerto Ricos status options and reiterated the plenary power of Congress to resolve the Islands status dilemma.
The entire report is worth reading and can be found at: www.puertorico-herald.org/issues/2001/vol5n06/Murk1-en.shtml.
Their argument seems to rest on the premise that Island residents cannot be both Puerto Rican and first class U.S. citizens with a voting delegation in Congress. They themselves are proof that their premise is seriously flawed since they are both Puerto Rican and living as statehooders.
So why can those of us on the mainland have constitutionally guaranteed citizenship and a voting delegation in Congress and Puerto Rico cannot? Why should our friends and family be subject to the demeaning status of second-class citizens while Gutierrez and Velazquez enjoy the fruits of statehood and continue to support one of the worlds last colonial governments?
As the saying goes, this is where the rubber meets the road. Fair is fair, as long as the Island is disenfranchised, shouldnt these two Congressional representatives be too?
Gene Roman is a free-lance columnist and Democratic Party Activist in NY. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.