The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was joined by Puerto Rican leaders in Milwaukee on July 11, who shared the harsh reality still facing the Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

In May, LULAC helped lobby approval for the $19.1 billion Federal Disaster Aid bill, securing nearly $1 billion in immediate relief for the beleaguered island. However, mounting losses continue in the wake of the unprecedented devastation, and more help is needed to prevent problems from spiraling out of control.

“Even though almost two years have passed, the people of Puerto Rico are struggling to recover from a natural disaster that no other generation on the Island has ever seen before,” said Carmelo Rios, Puerto Rico Senate Majority Leader and NHCSL President. “The recovery process from the U.S. government has not been sufficient, but as part of our efforts, we are promoting Puerto Rico as a tourist destination that will help revamp our economy. We look forward to showing the world everything that Puerto Rico has to offer.”

The public conversation on “The Untold Story of Puerto Rico Continues” was joined by Regla Gonzalez, Special Assistant to the LULAC National President; Wilson Roman, Representative (District 17); Jose Enrique Melendez, Representative at Large – Puerto Rico House of Representatives; Carmelo Rios, Puerto Rico Senate Majority Leader and NHCSL President; and Annabel Guillen, President of Igualdad – Federal Affairs Advisor, Puerto Rico Senate.

LULAC shared its continued support to fellow U.S. citizens who reside in Puerto Rico, regarding their legitimate right as U.S. citizens to be able to vote in Presidential elections, as well as for their corresponding voting members of Congress. The organization also remains committed to push government officials to provide equal opportunities and treatment to the three million U.S. citizens residing in the Island.

Approximately 97 percent of Puerto Rican voters favored becoming America’s 51st state. However, the results are non-binding and the decision to make Puerto Rico a state can only be implemented by Congress. LULAC has been a strong advocate for Puerto Rico’s statehood, urging Congress to grant all American citizens, regardless of where they reside, equal protections and benefits. Giving statehood to Puerto Rico falls in line with our founding principles as stated in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution to help “create a more perfect Union.”

“Puerto Ricans deserve the same equal rights as all Americans. The island is facing detrimental hardship after filing for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history last year. Statehood would provide the people of Puerto Rico with better career and educational opportunities as well as grant the island access to an increase in federal funds,” said Roger C. Rocha, Jr., LULAC’s former National President in a 2017 statement.

The island currently receives significantly less funds for programs like Medicaid, compared to U.S. states. Statehood would provide Puerto Rico with more power in Congress and more influence on national issues that transcend the states and impact the island.

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Lee Matz