PR Newswire, Washington, D.C.

U.S. Hispanics Back Puerto Rican Self-Determination Bill

(04/29/98, Copyright © 1998 PR Newswire)

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

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

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

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

Jose Nino, Former President of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Jose Rivera, National Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly; Belen Robles, President of the League of United Latin American Citizens; Elisa Sanchez, President of M.A.N.A. (A National Latina Organization); Andres Tobar, Executive Director of the National Association of Hispanic Publications; Al Zapanta, Chairman of the National Hispanic Policy Forum; and Jake Alarid, National Commander of the American G.I. Forum sent the following letter dated April 29 to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Copies were sent to Senate Co-sponsors of S. 472 and Co-Chairman and Senate members of the U.S. Senate Republican Task Force on Hispanic Affairs.

We are writing to urge you to take prompt action on S. 472, a bill which would provide self-determination for Puerto Rico. The 3.8 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico have waited 100 years for the opportunity to determine their permanent political status. We do not think that they should be denied their full civil rights any longer. Justice delayed is justice denied.

The historic vote by the House of Representatives to pass the U.S.-Puerto Rico Political Status Act was the first step for the citizens of Puerto Rico to participate in a meaningful referendum on their permanent political status. The leadership and members of the undersigned Hispanic organizations strongly supported the legislation and are gratified that our voices were heard by a significant number of Republicans and Democrats to obtain its passage. We hope that you will join Speaker Newt Gingrich in providing strong leadership on this important issue. It is critical that the Senate act on this legislation without delay.

The Hispanic Community is committed to self-determination for Puerto Rico, as is the great majority of Americans. A recent poll by the Center for Research and Public Policy found that 90% of the Hispanic community supports self-determination for Puerto Rico, and a bipartisan Univision poll released last week concluded that 56% of Hispanics support statehood for Puerto Rico. According to the latter poll, a summary of which is attached, Hispanic voters see self-determination for Puerto Rico as one indicator of the Congressional leadership's willingness to act on issues of importance to one of the fastest growing segments of American society. The poll also concluded that Republican candidates who respond to the concerns of Hispanic voters garner high approval ratings and support from this constituency.

Fidelity to America's promise of equal justice for all demands that we respond to Puerto Ricans' desire for self-determination. Although citizens of the United States since 1917, Puerto Ricans have not enjoyed full rights of American citizenship, including the rights to vote for President and Vice President and to have voting representation in Congress. We believe that this injustice should be redressed immediately. Enactment of S. 472 will achieve that just result.

The Hispanic agenda is the American agenda, and Puerto Rican self- determination is a very important part of our agenda. We and our membership respectfully urge you to schedule this legislation for action by the Senate without delay.

The following is a summary of the the results of a poll conducted by Univision:

Survey Finds Hispanics Optimistic About Direction of the Country And Their Futures
Hispanics Say Democrats Represent Their Views;
Republican Candidates Who Court Hispanics Win High Approval Ratings

LOS ANGELES, April 22 – In what may be the first major bipartisan poll of registered Hispanic voters in major markets nationwide, Hispanics in the United States reveal strong optimism about their futures and by a newly 2 to 1 margin express confidence that the country is on the right track. Democratic pollster Mark Penn and Republican pollster Mike Deaver authored the survey for Univision Communications Inc., a nonpartison television-broadcating company. The results of the study will be presented at "The Power of the Hispanic Vote," a conference sponsored by Univision at the ANA Hotel in Washington, DC, on Thursday, April 23.

Outpacing the positive attitudes of the country as a whole, the majority of Hispanics express satisfaction with both the economy (68% versus 60% for the country as a whole, according to previously published polls) and their personal economic situations (78%). They also give a strong vote of confidence to President Clinton (82% job approval) and say they intend to vote in the 1998 election (94%).

More Hispanics feel that the Democratic Party reaches out to them (47%) and represents their views (62%). Many Hispanics feel the Republican Party ignores them (41%). However, they also identify with traditionally Republican issues, such as crime and violence (most important to 17%), the weakening of traditional family values (most important to 16%) and the quest for economic opportunity (most important to 11%).

The study reveals high approval numbers for Republicans who have aggressively courted Hispanics, such as Texas Governor George W. Bush (81%) and Illinois Governor Jim Edgar (66%). By contrast, California Governor Pete Wilson, who has aggressively fought illegal immigration, has an approval rating of 26%. The findings suggest that Republicans can make inroads to Hispanics in time for the 1998 elections but must reach out to them.

Other highlights of the poll:

  • 81% are optimistic about the future for Hispanics in the United States; three in four parents think their children will be better off economically than they are.
  • 45% feel their personal economic situation had improved in the last year, and 58% expect it will continue to improve.
  • Over 90% of Hispanics place importance on sustaining the Spanish language and preserving Hispanic heritage and traditions.
  • 83% of Hispanics support bilingual education programs.
  • 61% say it is very important that a political candidate communicate to Hispanic voters in Spanish.
  • 97% of Hispanics place high importance on education; 92% consider sending their children to college to be highly important.
  • Hispanics think Democrats have better solutions then the GOP on a range of issues, including the economy (58%-27%), education (57%-25%), taxes (50%- 28%) and crime (44%-33%).
  • Hispanics strongly support issues championed by Republicans, including school prayer (73%) and school vouchers (84%), indicating that Republicans may be able to appeal to Hispanic voters by effectively communicating their positions an such issues.

56% of Hispanics support statehood for Puerto Rico, with support somewhat weaker among Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin (48%). 49% of Hispanics favor lifting or lightening the embargo on Cuba. 51% of Hispanics of Cuban origin, compared to 39% of all Hispanics, support maintaining or strengthening the embargo.

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