Puerto Rico statehood backer files complaint against Obama, Congress

It’s been more than a year since Puerto Rico residents voted in favor of the island becoming the United States’ 51st state, but no action…

The President Barack Obama and Congress, along with Puerto Rico’s local government, are being accused of ignoring a 2012 plebiscite that shows many Puerto Ricans support statehood. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

It’s been more than a year since Puerto Rico residents voted in favor of the island becoming the United States’ 51st state, but no action has been taken to make it happen.

Now, an advocate pushing for statehood of Puerto Rico is filing a complaint before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, alleging the results of Puerto Rico’s 2012 plebiscite on the territory’s political status are being ignored.

SEE ALSO: Senate bill defines a path to statehood for Puerto Rico

Ricardo Rossello filed the complaint Tuesday. He argues President Barack Obama and Congress are violating the civil rights of U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico by not recognizing the results of the 2012 plebiscite. He also contents Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia-Padilla and leaders of the territory’s House and Senate are obstructing efforts made to ensure the results of the plebiscite are recognized.

“My request is that the federal civil rights commission takes this matter very seriously, that they do open and public hearings and that they investigate the matter,” Rosello said in an interview with VOXXI.

Rosello is the president of Boricua Ahora Es, a grassroots organization that seeks to promote discussion on the political status of Puerto Rico.

The group has been pushing for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state ever since November 2012, when Puerto Ricans cast ballots in a plebiscite over the territorial status of Puerto Rico. The results of the plebiscite: 54 percent voted to end the current territorial status and 61 percent voted in support of statehood.

Rosello said the expectation following the vote was that ?the will of Puerto Ricans supporting statehood would be heard and abided. But he said that hasn’t happened.

“Right now, there is little to no movement on the matter,” he said. “It’s disappointing that we as a territory, as U.S. citizens we have voted … but no action has taken place.”

White House responds to complaint

A White House official responded to Rosello’s complaint in an email to VOXXI, saying Obama and his administration “are committed to the principle that the question of political status is a matter of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico.”

The official also pointed to a report released in 2011 by the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status.

“Consistent with the recommendations of the Task Force report, this Administration will work with Congress to provide the people of Puerto Rico with a clear path forward that lays out the means by which Puerto Ricans themselves can determine their own status,” the White House official said. “The Task Force report outlines the options that are available to the people of Puerto Rico that are both constitutionally viable and consistent with policy.”

SEE ALSO: Puerto Rico’s financial crisis worsens

Two years after the Task Force report was released, Obama asked Congress to include in the budget for 2014 a total of $2.5 million to hold another plebiscite vote in Puerto Rico. This comes after some officials pointed out that the results of the 2012 plebiscite were inconclusive because more than 480,000 voters did not answer the question over whether they did or did not support statehood for Puerto Rico.

Still, Rosello said there is no need for another plebiscite.

“What there is need for is for President Obama and Congress to take aggressive action on the matter,” he said.

Puerto Rico residents feel they’re ‘second-class citizens’

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898, and its residents became U.S. citizens nearly two decades later. But because the island is only a territory and not a state, residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections. They can only do so if they move to a state.

When it comes to representation in Congress, Puerto Ricans can elect a resident commissioner to represent them in the House of Representatives. This person is not allowed to vote on the House floor but is able to vote on procedural matters and in House committees.

Rosello said one of the main reasons why many Puerto Ricans favor statehood is because they want to have the same rights as other U.S. citizens and not feel like they are “second-class citizens.”

Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership, said Tuesday he backs Rosello’s complaint.

“I hope this complaint helps bring national attention to the lack of full civil rights of the people of Puerto Rico and pressures the federal government to finally end the undemocratic political arrangement of the island,” Aguilar said in a statement.

SEE ALSO: Curious facts from the Puerto Rican Diaspora Atlas