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Del Toro, Russell, president, Federal Bar Association, Puerto Rico chapter ......
Equality and Advancement of Puerto Rico....
Puerto Rico ..........
Puerto Rico Bar Association ..............
MONDAY, JUNE 19, 1989
sity of Puerto Rico...
POLITICAL STATUS OF PUERTO RICO
FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 1989
San Juan, Puerto Rico.
SENATOR FROM LOUISIANA The CHAIRMAN. Buenos dias. This morning we take another great step forward toward self-determination for Puerto Rico.
I am pleased to say that yesterday the United States Congress finally acted on $1.5 million to be divided-$500,000 for each of the three parties to cover expenses of this self-determination legislation.
This morning we begin the second series of hearings to develop legislation on the political status of Puerto Rico. We have come to San Juan because we believe it is vitally important to involve you, the people of Puerto Rico, to the maximum extent possible in this vital issue.
The issue is your future, and it will be through a working partnership with the Congress that we will achieve our goal to give you, the people of Puerto Rico, a meaningful choice in determining your political future.
To accomplish this we must keep our attention focused on the real objective of this legislative process, which is developing realistic well-defined options from which the people of Puerto Rico can choose and expect that the option which they choose and exercise will be implemented.
This will require that we work together and put forth the maximum effort to accomplish our tasks. No commission has the power to define the conditions of a status change. Only the Congress, through the legislative process, has that power.
But Congress alone cannot clarify all the issues involved. The people must help us identify and resolve the ambiguities by raising questions so we can try to resolve them.
Let me take a minute to explain the purpose of these hearings and what the jobs of the Congress and the people of Puerto Rico are in the self-determination process. We are not here to debate the relative merits of the three status options, and that is not the purpose of these hearings.
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Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the three formulas is the job of the people of Puerto Rico. This is not a matter for the Congress to decide. The job of the Congress is to develop the provisions of law needed to define a fair consultative process and to define the specific details of the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico under each option.
It is also our responsibility to develop options which are balanced and are fair to all three formulas. There are many wide-ranging and important issues which we expect to discuss as we begin our job. One such issue was discussed at our hearings in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago, citizenship.
On this issue, concerns had been raised about the memorandum which I requested from the Congressional Research Service. This document was intended to clarify Congress' option regarding United States citizenship, assuming the people of Puerto Rico approved independence in the referendum.
I fear that that memorandum has been misunderstood and has led to unnecessary concern on the nature of citizenship as it exists today. The memorandum and the issue of citizenship only apply in the case of independence. Both commonwealth and statehood guarantee continued United States citizenship.
Citizenship should not, will not, and cannot be denied under statehood or a commonwealth. Citizenship should not, will not, and cannot be changed under statehood or a commonwealth. Citizenship should not, will not, and cannot be modified in any way under statehood or commonwealth. It is guaranteed.
Under the independence option, however, the treatment of U.S. citizenship is an issue which the Committee must resolve. Citizenship is raised in the definition of independence which was submitted to the Committee for insertion in Senate bill 712 in May. Citizenship will not and cannot be revoked immediately under independence, but it may well be that under the independence option, citizens of both Puerto Rico and the United States will be required to choose within a reasonable time their country of citizenship.
We had extensive conversations about that in our last hearing, particularly with Senator Berrios. The task we are undertaking is formidable and will require a tremendous amount of work, cooperation and coordination among the members of this Committee, other committees of the Congress, the Administration and the three principal parties of Puerto Rico, and the people of Puerto Rico.
I am very pleased that we have made as much progress as we have and I acknowledge the diligent, good faith efforts each of the three parties in Puerto Rico has made to adhere to the stringent deadlines we established on February 27 for submitting definitions of the three status options.
That all three parties have worked so hard and continue to support this process is a testament to the importance of self-determination. I seek to broaden support for this process to include those we will hear from today, tomorrow and Monday.
I also want to thank all of those who contacted the Committee seeking the opportunity to testify. I wish we could accommodate everyone. We have tried to be as fair as possible in selecting witnesses so that these hearings will be broadranging and balanced yet not repetitive.
We have been sympathetic to those who have requested to testify early and to those who provided summaries of their statements to assist us in organizing these presentations. For those we have been unable to accommodate, I urge you to submit written statements to the Committee. We will consider those written statements. We will read them carefully.
All statements submitted will be included in the record in full. We will be working under very stringent time restrictions during these hearings. I have urged all witnesses, if they can, to summarize their testimony because our time limits are so strict. The Committee has read the statements submitted in advance and will review your written remarks carefully as we consider the legislation further.
Let me reiterate that our view of the matter of self-determination is a matter of first priority. I urge all the people, as I have urged my colleagues in Washington, to become involved in the process and to help us clarify these issues. At issue is the future of Puerto Rico. The issue will receive our best efforts. The people of Puerto Rico deserve no less.
Before we hear from our first witness, I want to call on our ranking Republican of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, co-author of this legislation, who has been involved every step of the way, Senator Jim McClure. STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES A. McCLURE, U.S. SENATOR FROM
IDAHO Senator McCLURE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I would like to make a few remarks about these hearings.
The initial hearings in Washington were a useful beginning in that they enabled the Committee to walk through each of the proposals submitted by the three parties and hopefully sharpen some of the issues which the Committee needs to address. I hope that the witnesses who will testify during the next several days will focus their testimony on the specifics of each proposal and refrain from general status discussion.
That type of discussion would be appropriate if the Committee were choosing between the status alternatives. But we are not. That decision will be made by the electorate in Puerto Rico. Our responsibility is to attempt to do the best job we can for each status alternative as if it had already been selected.
I appreciate the depth of feeling which those advocating particular status options have and it is respect for those feelings which requires that we consider each of the alternatives seriously. Certainly we are aware of the results of previous referenda and the trend in election returns. I simply want to indicate that this Senator intends to give the same consideration to each of the alternatives, whether it is supported by one person or three million.
I know that the press has characterized some of our questioning as indicating that we neither support nor are sympathetic to the proposals put forth by the three parties. That is simply not accurate. Both Senator Johnston and I intend to question very closely any proposal put forth to insure that we fully understand its possible ramifications.
The very fact that we play devil's advocate is a mark of the respect which we afford each of the alternatives and to the commitment of those who would advance the proposal. As a practical matter, Senator Johnston and I will have to defend this measure on the floor of the United States Senate before our fellow legislators and then in conference with the House of Representatives. We must be able to justify whatever we report to our colleagues.
We also need to satisfy ourselves that we have not overlooked an alternative which might be better than the initial proposals put forward in this legislation.
The Committee was unable to accommodate all the requests to testify which we received, and that's unfortunate, but it is unavoidable.
I hope that those individuals, as well as all others who are interested in this legislation, will submit written testimony to the Committee carefully examining the specific issues of concern to them and suggesting solutions. I can assure you that any communication received by the Committee will be as carefully considered as the oral testimony.
During our hearings in Washington we focused on the proposals from each of the three parties and sought to gain an understanding of the objectives of each section. During these hearings I hope that the witnesses who have expertise in particular areas will address not just those provisions in the status alternative which they support, but will also address how these issues are handled in the other two alternatives. Where witnesses express a concern with provisions in any of the alternatives, I expect that they will be able to provide the Committee with specific solutions within that status alternative.
One issue which I think we need better information on is the precise effect which some of the economic proposals will have. I hope that Fomento will be constructive in this area for both Statehood and Independence.
According to some preliminary data which the Committee has received, it appears that section 936 benefits amount to only onethird of wages in the apparel and textile segments of the manufacturing sector. It also appears that those industries are particularly sensitive to labor costs and might relocate outside of the United States if either 936 or 936-like treatment were not continued.
If that is true, then the elimination of 936 would not only not produce new revenues, but would likely result in both a decrease in revenues as a result of lost income to wage earners subject to tax and through the multiplier effect of that lost income. In addition, it might result in additional Federal expenditures as a result of increased unemployment and Federal transfer payments.
If that is true, then fiscal responsibility demands we find a solution. Whether all of the 936 corporations are in the same situation is a subject we need to examine. I expect that Fomento and the other witnesses will be able to assist us in developing the framework for both statehood and independence transition which will strengthen the economy of Puerto Rico, increase revenues to local government, and, under statehood, both increase revenues to the Federal Government and decrease Federal expenditures.