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Statehood for Puerto Rico: Lawmakers to introduce bill granting Puerto Rico statehood bypassing any referendum

Washington – A bipartisan group of lawmakers will introduce itself Thursday that would admit Puerto Rico into the union as the 51st state without a referendum on the island's territorial status, four sources familiar with the situation CBS News.

The bill will be unveiled by Florida Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat who represents parts of Orlando and its large Puerto Rican community, during a press conference in Washington, which will be attended by the island's Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, a vocal supporter of Puerto Rican statehood. If enacted, the legislation would automatically trigger the island's admission to the union, bypassing any referendum, the sources said.

"It is absurd that, in the 21

st century, the world's greatest democracy still has territories in which citizens are not allowed to vote for their president. It is shameful and it must end," a Puerto Rican government official CBS News. "We applaud Rep. Soto for stepping up to right this wrong."

In the past seven years, the Puerto Rican government has held two referendums on the status of the island. In both cases, voters chose statehood, but because any change in status requires Congressional approval, the results were symbolic. Boycotted by one of the main political parties, the last referendum in 2017 was marred by historically low turnout.

Although it could be secure passage in the Democrat-controlled House, the legislation will almost certainly be settled by the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Senate. President Trump said last year is an "absolute no" on Puerto Rican statehood, as long as critics such as San Juan's mayor remain in office.

Two Democratic CBS News CBS News will allow the party to send a clear message on Puerto Rico when they believe the federal government is mistreating the U.S. territory, which is still recovering from a pair of powerful storms and grappling with decades of financial instability.

Since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, Congressional Democrats and many elected officials in Puerto Rico, home to approximately 3.2 million U.S. citizens, have accused the Trump administration of treating Puerto Rican as second-class citizens. The White House's action of recovery efforts in the aftermath of hurricanes María and Irma have been sharply criticized by some local residents, leaders and most Democrats in Congress.

On Tuesday, several media outlets reported Mr. Trump privately customs Republican senators he further alleged disaster aid to the island because he believed the U.S. territory received too many federal relief funds compared to states like Texas and Florida, which have also been battered by storms in the past two years. Puerto Rican leaders also have the administration for considering divisional relief funds to finance the president's long-promised wall along the US-Mexico border and upwards of $ 600 million in food assistance funding, which the White House called "excessive and unnecessary. "

Because the bill would not include a referendum in which voters can opt for the change in territorial status, if any, that they desire, the legislative effort will likely be with fierce opposition from some political leaders, citizens and groups, including pro-independence movements and people who want to make a decision before any change in territorial status.

For decades, the Caribbean island has faced a perpetual struggle over questions of self-determination, which dates back to the late 19th century, when the U.S. acquired the territory after the Spanish-American War.

Puerto Rico currently only has a non-voting member serving in the House of Representatives. Statehood would grant Puerto Rico congressional representation at both Senate and House as a stronger influence in presidential elections.

Because they do not have voting representation in Congress, other living in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories are not called to electoral votes. Despite having non-voting representation in Congress, voters in the District of Columbia have been able to cast ballots in presidential elections since the 23rd Amendment was ratified in 1961.

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