ORLANDO, Fla. — A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Florida) told Spectrum News there is growing bipartisan support to cosponsor a bill that would make Puerto Rico the 51st state of the nation.
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She said the congressman plans to cosponsor Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2019 once Congress is back in session.
It is the second time in seven years a bill was introduced to give Puerto Rico statehood.
Evelyn Robles was born in New York, and at the age of 11 her family moved to Puerto Rico. That’s where she’s lived until Hurricane Maria forced her out.
“The people are trying to live,” Robles said. “The word is survival. That’s what it is.”
Robles said she would love to return to her home, but she feels it isn’t possible now. She receives medical benefits and financial aid living in Central Florida, something she said she would not in Puerto Rico.
“I have to go to a chiropractor, and I would never be given the money to pay for it over there,” Robles said.
The hope for Puerto Ricans who support the bill, like Robles, is it will give them the same rights as other states.
Members of the Florida Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce like Samuel and Teresa Lopez said statehood is overdue, and it will help give the island influence in future elections.
The Brevard County organization helped house 189 Puerto Ricans displaced by the storm.
“The people that are going to go and ready for office will have to go to Puerto Rico and do what (they) do in all the other states to win the people’s vote,” said Chairman Samuel Lopez.
Fernando Velez said first the bill has to pass. Velez was displaced from his home in Puerto Rico eight days after the storm hit.
Even if the bill does pass, Fernando Velez said he does not see himself going back to Puerto Rico.
“The facilities in Puerto Rico for handicaps are horrible,” Velez said. “It’s the best way to describe it, horrible.”
The Natural Resources committee chairman Rep. Raúl Manuel Grijalva (D-Arizona) said he agreed to host a hearing in the committee on the bill in the next few months.