New York City Council Resolution 626 - Testimony by Catherine Torres on behalf of the PRBA
On February 10, 2011, the Cultural Affairs Committee had a hearing on Resolution 626- calling upon the United States Congress to reinstate the privileges, formerly held by the Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner and other delegates, allowing them to vote on amendments and procedures in the Committee of the Whole.
My name is Catherine Torres and I am representing The Puerto Rican Bar Association. The Puerto Rican Bar Association is the oldest ethnic bar association in New York State. And we, above everything else, accept full responsibility for standing up for the Puerto Rican, Latino communities and commit to protecting our rights, when those rights are being denied.
I am here in support of Resolution 626.
And, I commend Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito for her sponsorship and the members of the Cultural Affairs Committee for the opportunity to testify.
This resolution is important to the Puerto Rican community and the United States as a country because-
On January 5, 2011, the 112th U.S. Congress SILENCED an important vote and Puerto Rico needs it back. It passed a House Resolution preventing the Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner from presiding over or voting as part of the Committee of the Whole and violated one of the most fundamental rights and privileges of the Commissioner, of the people of Puerto Rico.
It is a travesty that the new congress has taken away the right to vote of the Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner, an elected representative, who speaks and acts on behalf of 4 million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico.
For nearly 100 years, Puerto Ricans have been citizens of this country, have worked hard to serve in the U.S. military, use U.S. currency and postal service and cannot vote for a U.S. president, yet the only right they have to participate in the legislative process is stripped away.
Loss of the power to vote in the Committee as a Whole means less funding for Puerto Rico. The new congress rule takes away a vote from the Commissioner and essentially takes away funding from 4 million residents – that affect children, families, the schools and education system. The new congress rule has a severely negative impact on the most vulnerable citizens of Puerto Rico -- the elderly -- who depend on Medicaid funds and other health care funding brought by the vote of the Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner. The right to vote in the Committee of the Whole has also helped Puerto Rico’s funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act bringing over $6 billion.
In Carribean News, Congressman José Serrano, who was born in Puerto Rico, a veteran elected official from the Bronx, stated ....“This is a shameful step backwards…and it is a slap in the face of the millions of citizens and people living under the U.S. flag in these territories. They have had the ability to have their voices heard in the U.S. House of Representatives for only four short years, and there is no excuse for taking that right away from these duly elected leaders.” Congressman Rangel has called losing the right to vote in the Committee as a Whole, " a full disenfrachisement of 4 million U.S. citizens".
There is no basis in law for this move. There may be political and individual motives that clearly should be handled in a different arena.
It is for the aforementioned reasons that the Puerto Rican Bar Association supports Resolution 626.
Again, I applaud the leadership of Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito as the sponsor.