Oversight Hearing on Issues Raised by
Puerto Rico Separate Sovereignty and Independence
Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
June 23, 1998
(Transcript Copyright © 1998 by Puerto Rico Herald)
ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS OF PUERTO RICO'S STATUS
John Killian, Congressional Research Service, Senior Specialist, American Constitutional Law, accompanied by David Koitz, Economic Division, Richard Grimmett, Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division, Gerald Laney, Government Division, Vladimir Pregile, Economic Division, and Andora Bruno, Government Division
Honorable Richard Thornburgh, former U.S. Attorney-General
Gregory Nojeim, Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union
Manuel Rodriguez-Orellana, Professor of International Law, accompanied by Carlos Gorrin, Professor of Constitutional Law, Inter-American University, and Erick Negron, Economist and Tax Attorney
Juan M. Garcia-Passalacqua, former Chairman of Constitutional Law Commission of the Puerto Rican Bar Association
Emilio A. Soler Mari, Acción Democratica Puertoriqueña
Luis Vega Ramos, President of PROELA accompanied by Raul Marian Franco
H E A R I N G S
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. Murkowski (R-AK)): Let me get into a brief formal statement. This is anticipated to be the final hearing in preparation for considering legislation pending before this committee to provide a process for residents of Puerto Rico to exercise their aspirations with regard to their future political status. As Puerto Rico proceeds further down the road towards self-determination. We've heard from the governor, we've heard from the three political parties as to why they believe Congress should direct a referendum on the status of Puerto Rico. We've also explored the fiscal and economic implications of the status options, including the current status.
This hearing is equally important because it will help, I think, inform the voters in Puerto Rico and the public what the issues are that Congress and Puerto Rico would need to address if we proceed in establishing Puerto Rico to become an independent state. Hopefully, we will establish what status description will trigger a consideration of those issues.
As you know, the committee has scheduled a hearing on fiscal efforts to review the various conflicting conclusions that have been made about the costs of each status, what it would be, and to examine the assumptions that have been used to reach those decisions. What we found is that each status option will cost whatever Congress wants it to cost. With few exceptions, most notably vested pension rights that apply equally to all options, Congress has broad discretion in how it chooses to apply or not apply federal programs. Admittedly, under statehood, that discretion must be exercised within the full limitations of the Constitution, but the discretion still remains if there is a rational basis.
Under independence, of course, the consent of Puerto Rico would be necessary for the application of any program, although being able to place a definite cost on each option would provide some certainty, knowing the full extent of the discretion is even, I think, probably more important for those concerned with potential costs and for those who may be led to believe that there are some guaranteed benefits.
This hearing is similar in its objective. We need to know what the issues are, what some of the alternatives might be to address those issues. We cannot bind a future Congress but we can ensure that the voters of Puerto Rico fully understand and if they choose to establish a Puerto Rico sovereignty rather than remain under the United States' sovereignty certain issues will need to be addressed. Hopefully, the Congress that deals with those issues will be sympathetic, but a decision for separate status should be realistic.
How we deal with the issues may also be determined in part by the nature of the government-to-government relationship that a sovereign Puerto Rico and the United States would agree on. We have various relations with different nations around the world, and looking back in history we still have close relations with the Philippines, which were once a territory of the United States and acquired at the same time as Puerto Rico and Guam. The history of the Philippine independence move provides only marginal value to a consideration of Puerto Rico because the United States never extended citizenship to the Philippines, and the decision to withdraw sovereignty came as part of the grant of local self-government. On the other hand, our present relationship with the three foreign states that emerged from the United Nations trusteeship does provide some interesting and helpful examples of the range of options available to a sovereign.
Puerto Rico and the United States, in addressing issues we will be discussing here this morning. These issues, an example, the Republic of the Marshal Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Pilau, were never territories of the United States and the residents were neither citizens nor nationals of the United States. The United States never claimed sovereignty over the area but was the administrating authority under the United Nations. These states are now fully sovereign foreign nations in free association with the United States.
Under the terms of the compact, the political relationship of free association is of indefinite duration and can be terminated by either party without notice. Certain financial assistance is subject to re-negotiation over a period of years while the other provisions can continue indefinitely. The citizens of those countries have a right to enter the United States to work, to study, but such entry does not qualify as U.S. citizenship. We negotiated a lease of lands for defense purpose at Quajaleen (phonetic) and by agreement we exercised preliminary -- plenary defense rights. There is also a negative servitude in favor of the United States ensuring the permanent strategic denial. Although these are foreign countries today, certain federal programs such as education, historic preservation and others apply within those countries as if they were domestic pursuant to a government-to-government agreement. We would not do that if the nations were to choose complete independence.
The point I'm making here is that there is a considerable amount of flexibility in how we deal with most of the issues, and we should discuss some of those options this morning. There are also areas, such as citizenship, in which there is some theoretical flexibility but probably very little in reality. This committee discussed the possibility of dual citizenship back in 1989. Dual citizenship had been proposed by the Independence Party as one of the elements of its proposal. The committee decided that we would not recommend that approach and voted to terminate citizenship prospectively for persons born in Puerto Rico under the Independence option.
There were some in the administration and elsewhere who recommended that we go further, and require an election of those who sought to remain in Puerto Rico to choose either Puerto Rico or U.S. citizenship. We did not go that far but, in all fairness, I do think that the voters in Puerto Rico need to understand that choosing separate sovereignty will in all likelihood result in some curtailment of citizenship. Some future Congresses will obviously deal with that but I seriously doubt that we would embrace dual citizenship.
In other areas, such as economic assistance, people should keep the economic realities in mind but within fiscal constraints we probably have a great deal of flexibility in fashioning assistance. Citizenship also presents an interesting juxtaposition on how U.S. domestic law and international law would work. As we understand it, at international law citizenship is viewed generally in a collective sense and the citizens of a dependency automatically assume the citizenship of the new nation upon independence rather than retaining the citizenship of the former metropolitan state. Under U.S. domestic law, however, citizenship has been considered more of an individual right rather than a collective description and must be relinquished individually. We had a considerable debate on that issue in 1989, some of you recall that, and we have the right group of witness on the first panel to have, I think, another interesting discussion on that point.
I anticipate that the Congressional Research Service, agreeing on a relatively short notice to provide a background briefing on the issues as well as some comparisons with what the committee did in 1989 how we structured our relationship with the Micronesian entities and what some of the other options are. Following these presentations, the other members of the first panel will discuss their perspective on these issues. I want to acknowledge our former attorney general, Dick Thornburgh, who's with us this morning, who was very involved in these issues as attorney general of the United States and has maintained a continuing interest.
Our second panel will also discuss approaches to these issues from the standpoint of free association rather than independence. In addition to a discussion of the individual issues and what the options are to address them, I particularly would like our witnesses to discuss exactly what the status options are that should trigger consideration of these issues. I'm not certain that phrases such as "free association" or "commonwealth" provide the necessary clarity. Virginia, as we know, is a commonwealth, the Philippines is a commonwealth, the Northern Marianas is a commonwealth.
I would encourage the witnesses, therefore, to address this and help the committee understand what the bright line is, if there is one. Some have suggested that the trigger is sovereignty and the test should simply be that these issues will necessarily be raised under any status option however characterized that is not under the sovereignty of the United States and subject to our Constitution. We have a sufficient number of constitutional and international law experts with us here today to discuss what line -- what the line is and how it might provide some guidance to the committee when we begin to consider the legislation.
I want to thank my colleagues. I think Senator Campbell --
SENATOR CRAIG (R-ID): I have an opening statement, Mr. Chairman --
THE CHAIRMAN: -- Senator Gordon. Senator Craig.
SENATOR CRAIG: Mr. Chairman, let me again thank you for holding hearings and continued efforts on S-427. Let me only say, because I'm much more interested in hearing from the panelists this morning, that the only thing that is inevitable in the federal territorial relationship is that eventually Congress will have to define its policy regarding the ultimate status of Puerto Rico and I believe S-472 creates the best possible process for that to happen with due regard for the principles of self-determination of those American citizens. Thank you. And I'd ask unanimous consent that my whole statement be a part of the record.
THE CHAIRMAN: Without objection, thank you, Senator Craig. We have Panel I, John Killian, Senior Specialist, American Constitutional Law. John, good morning, and you're accompanied by a number of people who are with you for various aspects of your presentation. I'll introduce David Koitz, is that correct? David's right behind you, Economic Division, and his expertise is in the area of Social Security. He's nodding his head and saying yes. Richard Grimmett, Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division. Good morning. Gerald Laney, Government Division, good morning. Vladimir Pregile, Economic Division, good morning. Andora Bruno, Government Division, talking about Micronesia, good morning.
And we have the Honorable Richard Thornburgh, former attorney-general. Good morning. Gregory Nojeim, Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union, good morning. And Manuel Rodriguez-Orellana, Professor of International Law. Good morning. And I believe you're accompanied by Carlos Gorrin, Professor of Constitutional Law, Inter-American University, and Erick Negron, Economist and Tax Attorney. I believe that Erick, you missed our last hearing. You had a new arrival.
MR. NEGRON: I watched it from the hospital, sir.
THE CHAIRMAN: Good. You watched it from the hospital. Well, okay. I hope nobody's watching this one from the hospital. Nice to have you with us.
Let's proceed, and we're going to try and limit the presentations to about seven minutes so we'll have plenty of time for questions. Is that agreeable? All right. Mr. Killian.
MR. KILLIAN: Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, it's a pleasure for us to appear today. I would request that my statement and the statements of my colleagues be entered into the record.
THE CHAIRMAN: Without objection.
MR. KILLIAN: I will summarize my statement. The other CRS analysts will stand ready to answer questions from the committee at the conclusion of the presentation of the statements.
I am here today to talk about the issue of citizenship in the event that Puerto Rico chooses independence. First, there are several options that Congress has open to it. You might usefully divide these in terms of a prospective settlement of the question and a retrospective settlement of the question.
The prospective settlement is, it seems to me, is fairly easy. It's a question of what happens to persons who are born in Puerto Rico after independence is attained. It would be unusual, it'd be literally unprecedented for Congress to accord U.S. citizenship to persons born in Puerto Rico after it was an independent state. There are numbers of instances of dual citizenship. These do not relate to the entire citizenship of another country. But, of course, Congress does have that option open to it if it should choose.
The retrospective issues are somewhat more difficult. Persons born and living in Puerto Rico are United States citizens by birth, by statute. If Puerto Rico obtains independence, the question relates to what happens to the citizenship of those people. As I will argue in the constitutional section of the paper, American citizens of Puerto Rico are not 14th Amendment citizens and therefore do not have the protection of the first sentence of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, so the Congress has the choice freely to decide whether to revoke United States citizenship or to allow Puerto Ricans who already are United States citizens to retain it. Perhaps Congress would want to establish some kind of election that people who choose Puerto Rican citizenship and residence in the island could do so, that persons residing on the mainland who are American citizens and who wish to retain Puerto Rican citizenship would be allowed to do so in terms of dual citizenship.
Dual citizenship has historically not been favored by the United States or by other nations. There are all sorts of reasons for that, relating to the difficulties of protection of nationals of two countries, the presumed difficulty in loyalties -- divided loyalties of persons having dual citizenship, and other reasons. At the present time, the strictures against dual citizenship have dwindled some, have lost strength. The Supreme Court has held in a number of instances that 14th Amendment citizens may lose their citizenship only if they voluntarily renounce it. The United States may not take it away from them. The State Department has generally acceded to that although not without some qualms. There is congressional legislation which has made the attaining of dual citizenship of someone more easily. More easy. So that it would be possible for Congress, in the event of Puerto Rican independence, for it to treat those persons now living and now exercising United States citizenship either to retain it, to give it up, or for Congress to make the choice in terms of people residing in Puerto Rico.
It's a rather difficult complex issue, you would want, I'm sure, to consult State Department experts on the issue and scholars and practitioners in the field of immigration and alienation who undoubtedly could advise the committee far better than I could.
In terms of the constitutional power of Congress, as I mentioned the first sentence of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment establishes that persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States. That was intended to overcome the Dred Scott case, in which black Americans were held not to be able to have citizenship. The Supreme Court in the case called Afroyim (phonetic) versus Rusk decided, in 1967, that it also imposed a substantive limitation on Congress. A Congress could not provide for the termination of citizenship, for the involuntary renunciation of it.
My contention is that citizens of Puerto Rico, because they board in an unincorporated territory and because of the interpretation of the insular cases, are not 14th Amendment citizens and therefore Congress has discretion in the matter. It does not have full discretion. Whatever Congress does still has to meet a rational basis test, there has to be a permissible motive and means rationally related to the achievement to that motive. That could be easily satisfied in terms of independence of revocation of citizenship there, and any other kind of instance with regard to Puerto Rico and any other unincorporated territory, the rational basis test would still impose a strong limitation upon Congress's ability to involuntarily revoke citizenship.
At that point, Mr. Chairman, I'll stop and at the conclusion of the panel presentations I'll be glad to attempt to answer any questions for you.
THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Killian. Our next statement will come from Richard Thornburgh, former attorney-general. Please proceed.
MR. THORNBURGH: Good morning, Mr. Chairman. I thank you for the opportunity to appear here today to speak with you about an issue that continues in many quarters to be one of the major concerns of our time, the future of Puerto Rico. With the committee's permission, I have submitted a statement for the record and will try to summarize it as briefly as I can.
THE CHAIRMAN: Entered in the record.
MR. THORNBURGH: While serving as the attorney-general I had the honor of testifying before this committee in 1991 on the future status of Puerto Rico. Returning some seven years later as a private citizen, the world I find is a vastly different place but what was true seven years ago about self-determination for the Puerto Rican people remains just as true today. I commend this committee for holding hearings which I understand focus today on the status option of independence, a valid option that should be fully considered by the people of Puerto Rico and by this Congress. In order for self-determination to be meaningful, the people of Puerto Rico must grasp the ramifications of each of the status options presented to them.
My involvement in this issue as an adviser to the Citizens Educational Foundation of Puerto Rico, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, organization dedicated to educating the people of Puerto Rico on citizenship issues, has convinced me that there is today much confusion and ambiguity about the status options. Mists primarily seem to surround the search for some sort of super-status that would provide the best of all worlds to the people of Puerto Rico. It should be stated quite clearly that there is no such thing as this supposed super-status. There are only three real options for the people of Puerto Rico: independence, statehood, and continued rule by Congress pursuant to the Territory Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
As you may know, Mr. Chairman, I was part of a delegation to monitor the recent legislative council elections in Hong Kong, now a part of the People's Republic of China. That former British colony is now governed under a theory of one country/two systems, designed to preserve Hong Kong's unique characteristics. It's by no means clear that the one country/two systems model will work, and I suggest to you that the one system/two countries model suggested by some for Puerto Rico clearly cannot work. Indeed, cannot even come into being under our present Constitution.
As you know, I was the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In that capacity, I would loved to have been able to veto federal programs at my whim and to conduct a separate foreign policy for my state. As attractive as those powers might seem, however, they were not available to me under the Constitution of the United States and would not be available other than an independent Puerto Rico under the same document. The only way for Puerto Rico to obtain these powers, for which some argue, is for the Puerto Rican people to elect to become an independent nation.
A primary area where the confusion in Puerto Rico must be dispelled is the effect of independence on the availability of U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans. The confusion stems from discussions about a status that would permit Puerto Rico to be a fully independent nation and still provide U.S. citizenship to its people. Advocates of this so-called "dual nationality" rely on the concept of free association to reach their goal. Free association is, however, but a distinct form of separate sovereignty that embodies a special bilateral relationship between independent nations.
Free association is a treaty-based status outside of U.S. sovereignty that can be terminated by either nation. Typically, free association is granted where political union is not desired by either the colony or the colonial power, but the colony is not ready for full independence. Accordingly, independent sovereignty is established and the new nation delegates certain governmental functions, such as defense or the Postal Service, to the former colonial power. As long as both countries agree, open travel and other special relationships can continue, as has been noted. But free association cannot provide for permanent common citizenship for the people of Puerto Rico. Free association is founded on independence, and its necessary characteristics are separate sovereignty, nationality, and citizenship. As I testified in 1991, separate sovereignty requires separate citizenship from the perspective of both the United States and what would be the new nation of Puerto Rico.
Historically, the United States has followed two paths to resolving citizenship issues after it has been determined that a territory will become independent. Both paths require separate citizenship. In the case of the Philippines, Congress determined that upon succession of the Philippines to independence all U.S. nationals born in the Philippines became aliens in the United States. Those aliens were required to comply with the terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act and, if not in possession of a visa or other valid travel authorization, were required to leave the United States. Thousands of Filipinos were affected, some of whom had lived in the United States for years. Retention of United States nationality, however, was not an option.
The second historic path requires nationals of the new nation to elect between the citizenship of the two nations. The U.S. followed this path when it acquired Puerto Rico one hundred years ago. At that time, the people of Puerto Rico were required to elect between retaining their Spanish nationality or accepting the nationality of the United States. Again, as I testified in 1991, the best approach to promote an effective succession of state process and to protect the individual rights of individuals who wish to retain their United States nationality is to require an election between U.S. citizenship and nationality of the new nation of Puerto Rico.
Congress has authority to regulate statutory United States citizenship as long as there is no unconstitutional discriminatory purpose or effect and the measures adopted adhere to due process of law. Indeed, the position of the Department of Justice in 1991 was that Puerto Ricans who chose to elect U.S. citizenship in the event of independence would have to meet residency requirements in a state of the union to retain their statutory citizenship. Such an election procedure would clearly pass constitutional muster.
This discussion on citizenship is required because the people of Puerto Rico have been given and have received mixed signals about the nature of their relationship with the United States. Congress has not treated Puerto Rico like it treated the Philippines, which was bound for independence. Nor has Congress treated Puerto Rico like Hawaii or Alaska, which were bound for statehood. Instead, Puerto Rico has been treated in some ways as though its independence was intended and in other ways as though it was intended for statehood. Thus, Puerto Rico has received tax-exemptions and incomplete autonomy like territories bound for independence.
At the same time, Puerto Ricans have received U.S. citizenship and limited representation in the federal government like territories intended for statehood. This strange mix of benefits has permitted some in Puerto Rico to fabricate the notion that there is a super-status panacea. The fact of the matter is that there can be no such creative fix or innovative statesmanship through which to circumvent the structure of U.S. federalism and national sovereignty to create such a panacea. Nor should there be. Instead, the next referendum in Puerto Rico should contain clear and unambiguous choices regarding politically realistic status alternatives.
The options of statehood, independence, and continued territory clause commonwealth status should be clearly distinguished and presented for decision by the voters of Puerto Rico. It is with optimism, instead of fear, that all those who want to see Puerto Rico's status resolved should seek the truth about each option, including the up side and the down side of each. A foundation of truth will empower the people of Puerto Rico make an active, informed self-determination for themselves and their following generations. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much for that very concise statement.
MR. NOJEIM: -- members devoted to protecting the principles of freedom set forth in the Bill of Rights. We support self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico and take no position on the outcome of the self-determination process. ACLU has a long and rich history of involvement in protecting civil liberties in Puerto Rico. Our first official act was when one of the founders of ACLU, Arthur Garfield Hayes, chaired the commission on an inquiry to civil rights in Puerto Rico, which was really an inquiry into the Ponce massacre.
I will show that the proposed formulations of the separate sovereignty option would create two classes of citizens: Puerto Rico-born U.S. citizens, and everybody else, and deprive the Puerto Rico-born of key attributes of citizenship, in violation of their equal protection and due process rights. I will then show that residence requirements in existing law render this deprivation unnecessary.
Citizenship and its attributes are enduring individual rights, not group rights that can be divested or burdened for the convenience of the government. Under the succession of state or international law model the committee will be asked to consider next month, U.S. citizens who acquired their citizenship by virtue of their birth in Puerto Rico would be stripped of critically important attributes of citizenship. The power to petition for the citizenship of their spouse when they marry a non-citizen. The power to confer U.S. citizenship on their child when their child is born abroad. The power to petition for U.S. citizenship for their non-citizen children or their parents. And the power to maintain dual citizenship. Puerto Rico-born U.S. citizens currently enjoy all of these attributes of citizenship. Such a retroactive deprivation of citizenship rights has never, to my knowledge, happened before to U.S. citizens. In effect, the legislation would create a new kind of citizenship -- second-class citizenship -- suffered only by Puerto Rico-born U.S. citizens.
These are not just distinctions between statutory and constitutional citizens. They are distinctions among statutory citizens, and they are based directly on place of birth with a dramatic disparate impact based on ethnicity or national origin. They would be subject to a strict scrutiny review by the courts and would likely be struck as unconstitutional because they are not narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest. The succession of state doctrine and international law do not trump the Constitution. They never have, they never will, and they never should. This is how this doctrine would affect a hypothetical Puerto Rico-born U.S. citizen we'll call Alberto.
Alberto fought for our country during the Gulf War and was stationed in Japan. He and his Puerto Rico-born wife lived most of their lives in New York, and they have two young children born in New York. Last year, they moved back to Puerto Rico to take care of Alberto's mother. In our hypothetical, Alberto and his wife both vote for statehood in the referendum called for in the Puerto Rico status legislation but a majority of the eligible voters choose separate sovereignty. After separate sovereignty is implemented, Alberto and his wife welcome into their family a new baby girl. His mother recovers and they buy their tickets to move back to New York.
Here's what the succession of state or international law model in the pending legislation would mean for Alberto. He and his wife could go back to New York because the Puerto Rico status legislation allows them to keep statutory citizenship for life. Their two older children could go with them, because they are constitutional citizens. But they would have to leave their youngest behind. She is not a citizen because birthright citizenship was withdrawn from Puerto Rico, nor is she a citizen at birth through her parents because their power to confer citizenship on their children was withdrawn as well. They can't even file an immigrant visa petition for their daughter.
Though the proposal purports to give them a choice to retain U.S. citizenship, in reality Alberto and his family have no real opportunity to secure the benefits of that choice because the family can't live here, together, after independence. The separate sovereignty formulation in the pending legislation is sure to split Puerto Rican families or effectively banish them, these U.S. citizens, from the U.S. In our hypothetical, Alberto's daughter is not a U.S. citizen because other U.S. citizens voted to deprive Alberto of citizenship rights he already had. The Bill of Rights is fashioned to prevent exactly that. Deprivation of rights of a minority by action of the majority acting through the government. It doesn't have to be like this.
Under current law, a person born abroad of U.S. citizen parents is a citizen at birth only if one of his parents resided in the U.S. prior to his birth. In addition, under the immigration law Congress enacted in 1996, virtually every family-based immigrant visa petition must be accompanied by an affidavit of support signed by a visa petitioner who is domiciled in the U.S. No U.S. domicile, no visa petition. These residency and domicile requirements distinguish, in a nondiscriminatory manner, those U.S. citizens who can pass citizenship to their family members from those who cannot. They would work in Puerto Rico after independence in the same way they work in England, in Germany, in Israel, and every other foreign country in which U.S. citizens reside. To avoid putting unconstitutional burdens on the citizenship rights of Puerto Rico-born Americans, Congress need do nothing more than adopt the individual rights model and treat them in the same way they and other U.S. citizens are treated under current law. Thank you.
THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Nojeim. Our last witness on the Panel I is Mr. Manuel Rodriguez-Orellana. Please proceed.
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. Since the U.S. invasion and military takeover of our country in 1898, congressional dialogues like this one with independent thesis on the consequences of a political decision in favor of Puerto Rican sovereignty have been practically nonexistent. Otherwise, I am sure that Puerto Rico's independence in a climate of respect and mutual understanding would have been achieved a long time ago.
Accordingly, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of those who have suffered persecution, discrimination, imprisonment, even death in the course of this century for the cause of Puerto Rico's freedom, the Puerto Rican Independence Party acknowledges the positive nature of your initiative today. The real issue before this committee is simple. Whether Congress is going to perpetuate past decades of unwise policies which always worked unjustly against Puerto Rico's right to self-determination and independence, or whether Congress is willing to take corrective action through forward-looking policies that would facilitate Puerto Rico's decolonization.
I would stress from the outside that, unlike other status options, Puerto Rico's independence poses no constitutional obstacles whatsoever for the United States. Independence is the only political status that can put an end to Puerto Rico's economic dependence within a foreseeable period and to the burden on the American taxpayer which this dependence implies. What is at issue is the type of policy that the United States is going to devise in order not to obstruct the path to independence. As a matter of policy, there is no benefit to be derived from any other status option for either Puerto Rico or the United States that independence cannot achieve more efficiently and more flexibly.
No nation or people under colonial rule have ever been better prepared to assume the freedom and responsibility of sovereign nationhood than Puerto Rico is. We therefore aspire to a sovereign Puerto Rico that has complete and ultimate authority and responsibility over its territory and population under a constitution providing for the full protection of human rights. We aspire to a full range of powers and prerogatives on an equal footing with the international community including the power to establish our own fiscal, monetary, immigration and trade policies as well as an internationally-recognized Puerto Rican citizenship.
This collective right to exist as a distinct people, masters of our own land, is the basic human right of self-determination to which Puerto Ricans have inalienable right. Thus far, the United States has at best ignored this right or at times, indeed, acted to curtail it. But the time has come for the United States to remove all of the stumbling blocks in the path to Puerto Rico's independence, ending a century of colonialism which has been demeaning to both the colonized and the colonizer. There are undeniably, as has been recognized here, various issue areas which Congress must address, and we wish to highlight three of them: the economic transition, citizenship, and demilitarization.
A smooth economic transition for Puerto Rico from its dependent economy to that of an independent country is to the benefit of both our nations. With a free trade arrangement between Puerto Rico and the United States as a basis, the transition should include annual compensatory payments for a reasonable period based on the net present level of federal spending in Puerto Rico. These payments would constitute a gradual reduction in Puerto Rico-related budgetary costs for the U.S. government while, at the same time, enabling Puerto Rico to expand its economic base and to use the transitional federal transfers for stimulating productivity instead of subsidizing dependency.
Under independence, Puerto Rico would be able to substitute or reduce costs in imports. Moreover, new monetary inflows should result from increased exports made possible by the development tools of independence. This would more than offset the eventual reduction of federal transfers. That Puerto Rico's present dependence on federal funds is an addiction curable with independent nationhood has been amply demonstrated in recent decades by the successful experience of many independent nations that used to be poorer than Puerto Rico but by 1995 were already in better economic shape than the island. A partial list of those with a higher per capita GNP includes Argentina, Malta, Cyprus, Ireland, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Among those with higher purchasing power parity are Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Chile, and Venezuela.
Furthermore, the United States should honor the rights of individuals in Puerto Rico to benefits acquired by virtue of services rendered or contributions made to the United States. These include, of course, veterans benefits, federal pensions, and Social Security. A reasonable arrangement should be devised for Puerto Rico residents who have contributed to the U.S. Social Security system without having reached permanently insured status, ensuring that those residents are duly credited for their contributions while a Puerto Rican Social Security system is established.
Finally, during the economic transition there should be an extension of federal exemptions and guarantees applicable to Puerto Rico's public and private obligations and to the island's financial institutions.
On the question of citizenship, some clarifications are in order. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens since 1917. Our aspiration is to attain Puerto Rican citizenship in the Republic of Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican Independence Party does not propose, claim, require or promote the extension under independence of U.S. citizenship with which Puerto Ricans are born today. However, we would not diminish or encroach upon the rights of any Puerto Rican citizenship who may have citizenship rights in the United States or in any foreign country. The treatment the United States affords its citizens of Puerto Rican nationality after the establishment of Puerto Rico's independence is a matter of U.S. policy, subject only to constitutional limitations. The citizenship situation arises from unilateral congressional action. In 1917, in spite of unanimous opposition by Puerto Rico's own elected body, Congress imposed U.S. citizenship on Puerto Ricans. However, the seeds of today's problems had been planted before.
Free transit between both of our nations began almost two decades earlier. Today, 3.8 million Puerto Ricans live in Puerto Rico and approximately 2 million live in the United States. Two-way travel has been constant, and free transit of persons has become a modern international trend. Given this reality, a policy of free transit of Puerto Rican and U.S. citizens between both nations would bring either citizenship into proper focus; for most Puerto Ricans, deflating an artificial interest in a citizenship from which they currently derive no special benefits or privileges in Puerto Rico.
Finally, we aspire to a demilitarized independent Puerto Rico. The United States acquired Puerto Rico through conquest as a military outpost to protect its strategic interests in the Caribbean early in the century. After two world wars, a Cold War and multiple conflagrations, anachronistic policies must yield to Puerto Rico's right to self-determination. This committee raised the specter of strategic denial when it looked at independence for Puerto Rico as an alternative for the first time in the process from 1989 to 1991. It is a tribute to the passage of time that the Young bill, approved last March in the House of Representatives and pending before you, recognized that the status of United States military forces was a proper subject for negotiations with an independent Puerto Rico. Looking towards the new millennium, when regional harmony and international understanding must be promoted, decolonization without demilitarization is a contradiction in terms.
After a century of colonialism in Puerto Rico, the time is overripe to develop a new relationship based on mutual respect and sovereign equality. The end of the Cold War, the emergence of a global economy, and increased immigration from western hemisphere nations has placed American society at a crossroads. The road to Puerto Rico's independence with a rational economic transition under sovereignty providing for free trade, free transit of citizens, and the demilitarization of the island shines with greater advantages and flexibility than any other option. A century from now, our successors should not have to look back wistfully at the road not taken.
Mr. Chairman, we stand ready to expand on these and other issues during the question and answer period and, naturally, we're willing to expand the record with additional information you may require.
THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Rodriguez-Orellana. In view of the fact that there may be others who are at the dais other than Senator Craig and Senator Gordon, who will be back shortly, I believe, let me ask, Mr. Killian, is there any further statement that you care to make before we go into questions? You were, I think, cut off a little short so I wanted to give you the opportunity of --
MR. KILLIAN: No, I had summarized the statement, the prepared statement, and it adequately expresses the view with respect to the constitutional matters.
THE CHAIRMAN: And Mr. Thornburgh, I assume you managed to pretty well get through your presentation, and Mr. Nojeim? All right.
Let me -- Senator Craig, did you have -- all right, I have several questions which I would pose. One of the questions that we would need to address in any legislation is the issue what event or set of circumstances would be sufficient to trigger consideration of program eligibility; that is, of citizenship, the basic rights, other issues discussed by CRS. Is the test one of sovereignty, and if so how far do you go before you must address these other issues.
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: Are you asking me, Senator?
THE CHAIRMAN: Any member of the panel that would care -- why don't we start at the front with John, and see if you have any comments on that.
MR. KILLIAN: I would only think that Congress would set a date certain as of the time that Puerto Rico became independence in the event of a vote. There's obviously going to be a lead time while all the preparations are made, arrangements are made, and there would either be a date certain established or a contingent date as of the time when the arrangements were made for the United States to proclaim Puerto Rico no longer part of the United States and for Puerto Rico to proclaim itself as an independent nation.
THE CHAIRMAN: A date certain and a vote, of course, for sovereignty. Mr. Thornburgh?
MR. THORNBURGH: The House bill contemplated a transition plan being adopted, and it seems to me that those kinds of details could be addressed subsequent to a determination as to what the status option to be exercised might be. Obviously, there'd be considerable discussion about that, but that would then trigger consideration of the specifics in the final vote as to whether or not that status option is to be exercised.
THE CHAIRMAN: Any further comments?
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: Yes. I think that definitely a decision by the Puerto Rican people and by this Congress for Puerto Rico to move towards its own sovereignty would certainly trigger discussion and the need to address most of the issues that have already been addressed here today, or at least mentioned. And definitely it seems to me that prior to a vote taking place the people of Puerto Rico and the Congress have to at least get a sense of where things stand, so that the people of Puerto Rico can make a better and more informed choice.
THE CHAIRMAN: Anybody else want to anything to that? In 1989, we required that the new constitution for Puerto Rico had to protect the basic rights, including the right of personal property. And a concern was expressed on compensation if that property were appropriated. Can we provide such a provision that would be enforceable once U.S. sovereignty would be withdrawn from Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican sovereignty established?
MR. NOJEIM: I would think not. I would think it would be the same kind of situation that prevails when Congress imposes conditions on territories becoming states, that the territory has to agree to do certain things and once it becomes a state, that the state can do as it will unless Congress has the power generally to impose it. Once Puerto Rico is independent, any condition that Congress may have imposed on obtaining that independence, either through a state constitutional provision or a national constitutional provision or whatever, is going to be subject to the discretion of Puerto Rico. Else Puerto Rico is not going to be independent.
THE CHAIRMAN: Anybody have a contrary view?
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: I think that the concern that was raised back in 1989 responded to the world still being too close to the Cold War. I think that that concern really is no longer in existence and international law provides for the protection of human rights, and human rights includes the right to own property. So I don't think -- I don't see that as a concern. But definitely it would be up to the independence nation of Puerto Rico to comply with human rights and, of course, that is what we're arguing for decolonization to begin with, basic human right.
THE CHAIRMAN: No, we're talking about here, personal property and -
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: Yes. Yes.
THE CHAIRMAN: -- personal property rights. And there's no guarantee that you would have the protection that you have currently under the current status. You'd basically be up to the whims of the independent government of Puerto Rico, and you may or may not have the protection of private property.
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: Like right now, we are subject to the whims of the United States government. If the United States government were to change its attitude and confiscate all private property, then we would suffer as well.
THE CHAIRMAN: Well ...
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: So I --
THE CHAIRMAN: Under the current status, you'd have recourse for a taking --
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: Well, of course.
THE CHAIRMAN: -- private property.
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: We're talking about a constitution-
THE CHAIRMAN: And this wouldn't necessarily be the guarantee unless the government of Puerto Rico were guaranteeing that. That's the point that we were pursuing.
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: Of course, and that's why I mentioned earlier that we look forward to and independent Puerto Rico under a constitutional system that is fully protective of human rights, including the right to property, personal property.
THE CHAIRMAN: Gentlemen, what are the limits that the United States could impose on Puerto Rico prior to the withdrawal of sovereignty that would be binding and enforceable in a post-independence?
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: Mr. Chairman?
THE CHAIRMAN: Go ahead.
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: Yes. I think that whatever we put into a treaty is enforceable. Whatever is put into a treaty between two sovereigns is binding. That is the nature of treaties. And whatever we can agree to -- and we're very flexible on that, and the most flexibility arises precisely from two sovereigns who have a desire to provoke a meeting of the minds.
THE CHAIRMAN: The last question, under international law would an essential element of free association involving a sovereign Puerto Rico be the ability to terminate the relationship by either party?
MR. RODRIGUEZ-ORELLANA: Yes. In my way of thinking yes, international law does provide that any non-colonial, non-territorial sovereign option has to preserve for the associating territory or the other territory with which the former colonies associated the right to unilaterally terminate the association.
THE CHAIRMAN: Anybody have anything to add to that? That basically concludes my questions. We may have some for the witnesses that would be submitted in writing. Anybody have any thoughts for the record prior me introducing the second panel? Mr. Thornburgh?
MR. THORNBURGH: I'd just like to add one observation as to why concern arises about the prospect of some kind of mass dual citizenship being created in the event of the independent status option being availed of. And it has to do with the problems that that would create for both an independent Puerto Rico and for the United States. An independent Puerto Rico would have, under that scenario, a citizenry made up in rather large proportion of citizens of another country, and with allegiances that are conflicting which would potentially propose real obstacles to the sound governance of Puerto Rico as an independent nation.
Moreover, it would create problems for the United States by having such an abundance of its citizens resident in another country and the obligations that the United States owed to those citizens could well be the occasion for unwarranted interference in the governance of that country in the legitimate exercise of the obligations owed to those citizens by the United States. Those are practical considerations, I think, that have to be dealt with in any determination as to the status of the citizenry once the independence option were to be exercised.
MR. GORRIN: Mr. Chairman?
THE CHAIRMAN: Mr. Carlos Gorrin.
MR. GORRIN: I wanted just to comment very briefly on Mr. Rodriguez-Orellana's last comments regarding your question and how could a relationship work out throughout a treaty.
I'm sure that you're aware of the fact that in the process of 1989 to 1991, specifically with S-712, there was a very detailed process of transition, of political transition, that included a commission, a bilateral commission, which would give substance to what would eventually become a treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two nations so that the substance of that relationship would begin to evolve as soon as the vote for separate sovereignty starts and not -- it would not happen after some undetermined moment in time when formal sovereignty is recognized for Puerto Rico. So this is a process and the substance of that relationship would take form throughout that process.
THE CHAIRMAN: Let me thank the panel for its collective contribution to the process of self-determination for Puerto Rico. I think that we have had some enlightening testimony relative to the definitions and the necessity of clarity and the dangers associated with a certain wish by some to create an extraordinary degree of creativity that may run afoul of the objective of self-determination, so let me excuse the panel. We've got about three minutes left on a vote. I'm going over to vote, and if you, Mr. Bernie, would assemble the second panel, why, when I get back we can start with the testimony.
Thank you very much, gentlemen. I wish you a good day and, again, thank you for your contribution.
THE CHAIRMAN: So we welcome the Panel II, Juan M. Garcia-Passalacqua, former Chairman of Constitutional Law Commission of the Puerto Rican Bar Association. Good morning, and I admire the manner in which you have achieved that bow tie. I'd like to have a lesson in tying them.
Next is Mr. Emilio A. Soler Mari, Acción Democratica Puertoriqueña, so my Spanish is not very good this morning, but good morning.
Mr. Luis Vega Ramos, President of PROELA. Good morning. We welcome you, accompanied by Raul Marian Franco. Nice to meet you, good morning. Please proceed, gentlemen and, as we did with the previous panel, we will limit your testimony to about seven minutes. We've been joined by Senator Graham of Florida. Senator Graham, we've had opening statements, we've concluded the first panel. If you have any comments -- we also had Senator Alphonse D'Amato with us very briefly.
SENATOR GRAHAM (D-FL): Mr. Chairman, I do not have an opening statement other than to say I appreciate your continuing to explore the issues relevant to whether the people of Puerto Rico should be given a congressionally- sanctioned opportunity to express their opinion as to the island's political future. I am a co-sponsor of the legislation to sanction that plebiscite. I hope that we will not only do so, but do so in this very historically significant year of 1998, the one-hundredth anniversary of the 4relationship between the United States of America and the peoples of Puerto Rico. I hope that this hearing today will advance us towards the time that we can ask our colleagues to give the same approval to that plebiscite concept as has the House of Representatives.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Senator Graham. As I announced at the beginning of the hearing, Senator Graham, it's anticipated that this be the final hearing in preparation for consideration of existing or proposed legislation before the committee which would, of course, proceed with the process for the residents of Puerto Rico to express their final say on self-determination along with the Congress through a plebiscite vote.
Please proceed, gentlemen, and as I indicated, we'll try and limit you to about seven minutes.
MR. GARCIA-PASSALACQUA: My name is Juan Garcia-Passalacqua. I testify before you in my capacity as a constitutional attorney with 35 years of experience and as the senior political analyst in Puerto Rico, and I'm very happy to see Mr. Graham here because I suspect that he was a classmate of mine at the Harvard Law School between 1960 and '62.
SENATOR GRAHAM: I was.
MR. GARCIA-PASSALACQUA: My qualifications are known in the island but may not be known by some of you, so let me introduce myself. I was one of the founders of the Harvard International Law Journal in the academic year 1961-1962 at the Harvard Law School, and I served as counsel to Governors Luis Munoz Marin and Roberto Sanchez Villela on the issue of Puerto Rico's political status from 1958 to 1966. Since this committee has decided to hold a hearing on constitutional issues regarding sovereignty for Puerto Rico, I believe it useful to include testimony from nonpartisan experts in this hearing of your committee, due to the increasing civil society activity in Puerto Rico and I thank you and your counsel for it.
I appear before you to propose a public policy for Congress, consisting of five constitutional principles. These five constitutional principles would be as follows. First, any formula other than statehood and independence should provide for the disposition of the territory by the power of Congress under the territorial clause of the Constitution. That power to dispose was effectively used in the case of the Philippines and was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court. Under any formula other than statehood or independence Puerto Rican-born American citizens should be able to transmit their citizenship to their offspring via the procedures established for American citizens all over the world in the Immigration and Naturalization Technical Corrections Act of 1994 that could be made part of the constitutional agreement or treaty between Puerto Rico and the United States.
Third, Puerto Rico could enter into a treaty of union with the United States, union by treaty not union by admission in an immediate subsequent act to the disposition of the territory by Congress. This kind of arrangement was utilized in the cases of the Republic of the Marshal Islands, Micronesia, and Pilau.
Four, the procedure and substance of the disposition of the territory and the simultaneous entering into a treaty of union would be a political question, not subject to judicial review as has been determined by Circuit Courts in the case of the Free Associated States of the Pacific.
Fifth, under the Treaty of Union the formula other than statehood or independence would permit the United States to request and obtain admission of Puerto Rico in the United Nations under Resolutions 1514 and 1541, most particularly the interpretation of Resolution 1514 afforded by the Decolonization Committee in 1978 by a unanimous vote sponsored by the Jimmy Carter administration. As was also the case in the Free Associated States of the Pacific.
Those five constitutional principles would set the two American constitutional and international law contexts for the formula of a new associated state to be included in any legislation proposed by this committee and, Mr. Chairman, answering your question to Mr. Killian, it should be called Free Associated State; that is what it is going to be. I can personally testify to the fact that such was the intention of the founders of the Libre Associal de Puerto Rico (phonetic), most particularly Luis Munoz Marin (phonetic). I worked for him between 1958 and 1959 on the issue, and again between 1962 and 1964. I was privy to his thoughts and to his documents. My quotes can be corroborated in the Official Constitutional History, published by former Chief Justice Trias Monge.
I include in the record of this committee his two most important official expressions, but three others are contained in my written statement. Almost immediately after the creation of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952, one year after the establishment of the present territorial commonwealth, on December 29th, 1953, in response to an offer by President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the United Nations, Munoz wrote to the president, and I quote, "Any function that would not be exercised by an independent country should be eliminated that at the same time would result unnecessary to the concept of free association by common citizenship." Those are the words of Luis Munoz Marin quoted by Jose Trias Monde in Volume 4, page 71, of his Official Constitutional History of Puerto Rico.
In negotiations with the Republican White House on February 17th, 1954, Munoz said, and I quote, "The United States would abandon its sovereign rights over Puerto Rico, exercising thereon only those powers that the people of Puerto Rico delegate to it and that the United States accepts to assume," end of quote. The demand for sovereignty from Munoz is again, in Jose Trias Monde, Volume 4, page 102. That is what we wanted. We couldn't get it because of the Cold War. We're ready to ask for it and demand it and obtain it and get the vote of the people of Puerto Rico for it now.
I believe these two testimonies by Luis Munoz Marin, consistent for 25 years, would be well-served by the Senate of the United States if it includes in any legislation the proposal for a free associated state that is sovereign for Puerto Rico. Thank you.
THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
MR. MARI: Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Emilio A. Soler Mari, and I'm President of Acción Democratica Puertoriqueña, an organization of the Civil Society for Political Education in Puerto Rico. Acción Democratica Puertoriqueña proposal for free association for Puerto Rico is based on the practical premise that every true friendship needs some degree of separation. We believe free association strikes the right balance between Puerto Rico and the United States.
Our proposal is in full accordance with the United Nations requirements and the U.S. constitutional precedents on Micronesia, Marshal Islands, and Pilau. Our proposed definition will provide for a treaty of union that shall be entered simultaneously with the granting of autonomy and contains the following arrangements. One, Puerto Rico will control and determine its own nationality and citizenship, provided that under its treaty power the United States citizens born in Puerto Rico that so desire will retain such citizenship condition under pain of federal taxes. Two, Puerto Rico will have the authority and responsibility for its internal and external affairs. Three, United States and Puerto Rico will exchange diplomatic representations. Four, a common market will exist between Puerto Rico and the United States which will permit free flow of persons, goods, and services between both nations. Five, the United States will maintain its authority and responsibility over defense matters and strategic denial. Six, except for property needed for defense property all other property under federal ownership will be transferred to Puerto Rico.
Seven, the official U.S. currency will be the official currency of Puerto Rico and all federal applicable laws on currency and banking are made part of the treaty. Eight, the United States will provide a block grant in an amount at least equal to the amount now provided to the government of Puerto Rico in lieu of rent for the military bases. Nine, except for currency and banking on defense, federal laws will cease to apply to Puerto Rico. Ten, any dispute can be referred by any party to the special court on the U.S./Puerto Rican Treaty of Union which will be created.
We ask this committee, Mr. Chairman, to include this proposal in the legislative record today and to consider it as an essential element of any legislation by the Senate.
THE CHAIRMAN: Without objection.
MR. MARI: We must also avoid a serious misunderstanding regarding the Spanish language. Spanish is the every-day language in our Puerto Rican lives, including business and government. All official procedures, legislative, judicial, and administrative are conducted in Spanish in Puerto Rico. You must, as we are, protect our cultural nationality.
We understand that the Young Bill approved 209 to 208 in the House unduly favors, statehood supporters, the commonwealth alternative incorporating Puerto Rico as a territory together with statehood alternative provides a no-win situation to the majority of the Puerto Rican people which, as a matter of fact, do not back statehood. That is, statehood doesn't have a majority in Puerto Rico. That bill does not respond to the international recognized right of free determination. Neither does the Gregg-Graham Bill before you. We suggest a substitute bill in the Senate that includes our proposed definition as a third alternative for Puerto Rico. We're certain that the U.S. Senate will respond on this basic principle and approve legislation that will adhere to the United Nations principles of free determination.
Finally, as a graduate of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, let me quote our unforgettable founder, Edmond J. S.J., who, in 1944, when as in present times the specter of the Cold War did not exist said, "Living with one neighbors, whether they be parochial or continental, is an art, not a science." The textbooks and codes of political science of investment banking are primarily concerned with forms of government, administrative procedures, and rates of return on risk capital. They are not say safe guides in the sociology of cultural relations. Human nature will often defy the best calculation of logic, economics and finance and return to the simpler pattern of mutual respect and plain recognition of human personality. Human respect and recognition of our human personality as a nation is what we ask from the Senate of the United States. Thank you very much.
THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. I appreciate your statement and contribution to the record. Our next witness will Manuel Rodriguez -- or, excuse me, Luis Vega Ramos.
MR. RAMOS: You're excused, Mr. Chairman, Manuel is a good friend of mine so I don't have any problems being momentarily confused with him.
My name, for the record, in Luis Vega Ramos. At my right I have attorney Raoul Maria nee Franco (phonetic), and we're both members of the organization PROELA, which I preside, and as I will summarize my statement I ask that it be completely put in the record along with its enclosures.
THE CHAIRMAN: Without objection.
MR. RAMOS: This oversight hearing has been convened to discuss Puerto Rican sovereignty options. You have heard from the independence advocates but there is another sovereignty option available. I come to speak on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans who also want sovereignty for our nation but through the evolution of our Estado Libria Associado (phonetic) into a clearly non-territorial free associated state of Puerto Rico. In fact, a very recent poll showed that 92 percent of commonwealth supporters in Puerto Rico want it to be a sovereign political status.
A political entity subordinated to the sovereignty of Congress cannot enter into a bilateral compact or a treaty with it. This is shown by the unilateral amendments the U.S. is making to the covenant with the Northern Marianas and by their rejection of the Guam Commonwealth Act. The Department of Interior correctly stated that much of the authority that Guam has proposed be ceded to it is appropriate to sovereignty and should require sovereignty. The Justice Department backs that position. So it must be totally clear here and in Puerto Rico that the only way to enter into a binding bilateral compact with the federal government is to be sovereign, outside the territory clause, and through a treaty. The U.S. has already done this on three instances.
In 1986 Congress approved a compact of free association with the Marshal Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Pilau. The compact is a detailed document that regulates all areas of interaction between the U.S. and the associated states. It operates by specific delegations of powers to the United States. Thus, it rationally limits the sphere of action of a U.S. government. The compact is divided into four titles that deal with everything from foreign affairs and economic incentives to mutual defense and dispute resolution. The Federal Courts have made two important clarifications concerning the nature of the compacts. They have established that the options of free association and commonwealth are different and distinguishable. So is free association from independence.
A free associated state is clearly self-governing. The sovereignty of the United States does not apply and federal laws can only apply by mutual consent. Also, the courts have concluded that congressional determinations with regards to the free association compacts constitute a non-judicially reviewable political question. The United Nations has admitted all three associated states with strong United States sponsorship as members of that organization.
We filed with the chairman a working definition entitled, "Autonomy In a Treaty of Union," developed by Miguel Anundos Agusto (phonetic) and adopted by our organization. This ten-point proposal constitutes a sound and well thought effort to define sovereign autonomy. We now ask that it be included as part of the record today and urge you to offer it to Puerto Rico as an option for a new free associated state. We ask for its inclusion in the record.
We also wish to file --
THE CHAIRMAN: -- objection.
MR. RAMOS: Thank you very much. We also wish to file another enclosure, which is a letter from the President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, to Mr. Miguel De Lausell in which he suggests that this Senate can still consider a proposal that provides for an association between the United States and Puerto Rico based on Puerto Rican sovereignty. We agree with the President of the United States. The virtue of this Treaty of Union is that it clearly establishes the treaty-making power, not the territorial clause, as the constitutional vehicle for the relationship.