By Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Rep. Jose Serrano | Representatives for New York’s 7th Congressional District and New York's 15th District
Puerto Rico faces a time of great uncertainty—from a worsening health care shortage to a stagnant economy and crippling debt crisis. To overcome these obstacles, Puerto Rico must become a legitimate focus of American lawmakers. It will need policies benefitting ordinary, hard-working Puerto Ricans. And above all, it will need an ally in the Oval Office.
In most election cycles, Puerto Rico becomes a topic only while its delegates are up for grabs. But Puerto Ricans don’t care about the horse race. They want to know who will be there for them. And in our view, only one candidate has maintained a decades-long commitment to our community both on the island and the mainland: Hillary Clinton.
As First Lady, Hillary was among the earliest to visit after Hurricane Georges in 1998, arriving mere days after the storm made landfall to assess the damage firsthand, and to ensure that we received the necessary assistance to recover. Over the years that followed, she returned repeatedly, travelling from Aguadilla to Ponce to Cabo Rojo, and meeting with local leaders to make sure she knew what was happening on the ground.
As Senator from New York, Hillary represented more than one million Puerto Ricans and championed educational and healthcare programs for Puerto Ricans in New York while consistently fighting for federal appropriations for the island’s residents.
As Secretary of State, she authorized the creation of a federal passport office in San Juan (one of just 30 nationwide), and routinely worked with Puerto Rican officials – most notably to help coordinate on Haitian disaster relief.
In her current campaign, Hillary has not only called for an end to the disparate treatment of Puerto Ricans in federal health care programs— she has also proposed a real remedy, committing to help Puerto Ricans achieve equal treatment by increasing the share of Medicaid maintained by the federal government and supporting Medicare Advantage.
Hillary was also among the first to draw attention to the growing financial storm gathering over the Puerto Rican government. She has correctly recognized our treatment as having been “inconsistent, incoherent, and inequitable.” And last July, she endorsed giving Puerto Rico the authority to restructure all of its debt, while preserving its self-government.
Just this past September, Hillary visited the island to shine a spotlight on the economic uncertainties it still faces. And when Congressional negotiators failed to include language in a December omnibus package allowing for restructuring, she called for legislation to address the problem.
In our view, Hillary has an uncommon ability to deliver real results.
We believe that we need a president who has not only been to Puerto Rico, but has also been there for Puerto Rico—someone who can bring everyone on the island together, and actually get things done.
During her last visit, Hillary had some good advice. She noted that real strength comes through unity, and arguments are most effective when everybody is on the same page.
We couldn’t agree more. Puerto Rico can only address all of the challenges it’s facing if we finally unite and and work together to achieve real solutions.
Hillary understands what needs to be done and has a comprehensive plan ready to break down all the barriers that still exist for Puerto Ricans. To ensure we build ladders of opportunity in their place, her plan includes increasing investment, educational reforms, and support for veterans who so bravely fought for their country—commitments no other candidate has made.
Now, if this ambitious plan had been laid out by any other politician running for office, Puerto Ricans would have reason to be skeptical.
But we both believe Hillary is no ordinary candidate.
She has a rare combination of policy know-how, ability to find common ground, and long-time dedication to this community. She is uniquely and historically qualified to bring about a better future for Puerto Rican families. And we can’t wait to welcome her back to San Juan as President of the United States.
Disclaimer: We selected this Op-Ed to be published in our opinion section as a contribution to public debate. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of its author(s) and/or the organization(s) they represent and do not reflect the views or the editorial line of Univision Noticias.