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Puerto Rico's governor calls lack of statehood "geographic discrimination"

Puerto Rico governor on island statehood
Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi on island statehood, Hurricane Maria and COVID recovery 08:51

The latest CBSN Originals documentary, "Fighting for Paradise: Puerto Rico's Future," explores the divide between statehood and self-determination. Download the CBS News app on your cellphone or connected TV to watch the documentary Sunday, June 27, at 8 p.m. ET on CBSN.

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said the U.S. territory's lack of statehood is a form of discrimination and called on Congress to lay out steps for the island to become a state.

The island's residents, who are U.S. citizens, can vote in presidential primaries but cannot vote for president and do not have a voting member in Congress.

"You're talking about 3.2 million American citizens residing in Puerto Rico and facing what I call geographic discrimination," he said Wednesday in an interview with "Red & Blue" anchor Elaine Quijano. "If they move to Florida, Texas, New York, the Carolinas, they're treated equally. Why? That makes no sense."

"We want to have the same rights. We want to vote for president, have a congressional representation — voting congressional representation — and equal treatment in all the federal programs. It's about time that happens."

Pierluisi, who is in Washington, D.C., meeting with members of Congress and White House officials, noted that a majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood in a referendum held last year.

"Now the next step is for Congress to respond to this vote by the American citizens living in Puerto Rico. Statehood should be the next step," he said. "Congress should be laying out the terms and conditions for Puerto Rico to become a state."

Two bills in Congress offer different paths to determine Puerto Rico's future status. One measure would lay the groundwork for statehood if a majority of residents voted in favor of it. The other would provide residents several additional options to choose from, including independence or remaining a U.S. commonwealth.

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