ORLANDO, Fla. – Rep. Darren Soto, D- Fla., announced a bill on Thursday that would admit Puerto Rico into the union as the 51st state, without referendum.
"This bill is about respecting equality," Soto said. "We must treat Hispanics in the island equally in that regard."
Soto pointed out that the U.S. House passed a similar bill two years ago urging statehood for the District of Columbia.
News 6 spoke to Puerto Ricans living in Central Florida who said they support the bill and think it's time the island becomes a state.
"I’m all for it. I’ve always wanted it to be a state," said 86-year-old Esther Andreu.
Andreu came to the mainland U.S. from the island when she was 15 years old and said Puerto Ricans should be treated as equals.
"It’s time for all Puerto Ricans to be united in a noble and democratic effort," Soto said during a news conference in Washington, D.C. "It's time to let the old battle lines fade away."
The push for Puerto Rico statehood comes days after President Donald Trump opposed increasing disaster relief aid to help the island continue to recover from Hurricane Maria.
"As Puerto Ricans, we were born citizens of (the) United States. We are not immigrants, so therefore, that’s a big issue there. But in a statehood, we should be treated equally and everything," said Ada Rivera.
Rivera lives in Puerto Rico and was in Orlando for a visit when she found out about the possibility of the island becoming a state.
Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Rep. Jenniffer González also attended the presser in Washington.
"For more than a century the people of Puerto Rico have been U.S. citizens, but has been denied the right to vote for the President and members of Congress, leaving us without representation in the federal government, which enact the laws that rule the land," González said.
It's time to end 120 years of colonialism for Puerto Ricans. Today, along with Jenniffer González Colón, I'm proud to introduce the first direct Puerto Rico Statehood bill to admit the island as the 51st state of the union.Posted by US Rep Darren Soto on Thursday, March 28, 2019