For the first time since the Republican Party took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, Congress will hold a hearing on Puerto Rico’s status. Wednesday’s hearing, featuring witnesses representing all of Puerto Rico’s political parties, has been scheduled by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the head of a House Natural Resources subcommittee. It has with authority over the five U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico. In addition to considering the island’s identity as a geo-political unit, the hearing will also focus on Puerto Rico’s severe economic problems. Young has long favored granting statehood to Puerto Rico and cosponsored legislation proposed by Resident Commisioner Pedro Pierluisi that would require a vote on the island within one year on the statehood question.
While there are about 3.7 million Puerto Ricans still living on the island, there are 4.6 million living in the United States. And the concentration of Puerto Ricans is higher in Connecticut than any other state. According to the 2010 census, 7.1 percent of Connecticut’s population is Puerto Rican, followed by New York (5.5 percent) and New Jersey (4.9 percent).
Charles Venator-Santiago, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut who is also with the school’s Institute for Latino Studies, said the hearing is likely produce more smoke than fire because the GOP-controlled Congress does not favor giving Puerto Rico a chance at statehood.