Washington, DC – February 6, 2008 – Today Congressman José E. Serrano (NY-16) and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY-12) called on Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) to apologize to the Puerto Rican people after the Florida Republican put out a statement saying that as “foreigners,” Puerto Ricans did not deserve tax rebates offered through the economic stimulus package.
“I have confronted this lack of knowledge about Puerto Ricans for years; Representative Brown-Waite’s statement is just a new form of the same old careless ignorance,” Congressman Serrano said. “That said, I believe that Rep. Brown-Waite, once she was made aware of her mistake, should have retracted the statement, and apologized. Puerto Ricans are among the most patriotic of America’s citizens, and to label them ‘foreigners’ disparages their vast contributions to our nation. Additionally, I make no apologies for my efforts to include Puerto Ricans in the stimulus package. I worked hard on this, not just because their economy is linked closely with ours, but also because there’s no reason in my mind why any American should be treated as a second-class citizen. To leave the Puerto Ricans out would have been unfair and economically unwise.”
“Congresswoman Brown-Waite’s remarks about U.S. citizens of Puerto Rican descent were a painful reminder that America is still struggling to realize the strengths of its own diversity. Today it should be common knowledge that Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States and contributing members of our national economy and armed forces. It is simply inexcusable for a member of the United States Congress to call the Puerto Rican people ‘foreigners,’ and unimaginable that an apology has not been issued,” Congresswoman Velázquez said. “As a woman of Puerto Rican descent, I feel compelled to speak for our community, and to educate the uneducated. It is amazing that a member of Congress who has the responsibility for casting votes on behalf of tens of thousands of Americans could be so uninformed about the Constitution. It makes you wonder how many other times her understanding of complex issues has been wrong.”