In response to recent news in Puerto Rico that the pro-statehood and Republican administration of Governor Luis Fortuño is calling for changes to the island’s hate crime laws to exclude the LGBT community as well as Dominican immigrants, Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D) released the following statement today:
Attorney General Holder Must Get Involved in Puerto Rico’s Civil Rights Crisis and Protect
LGBT, Women’s and Immigrant Rights, Gutierrez says
(Washington, DC) — Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez wrote Attorney General Eric Holder today calling for a federal task force to investigate and prosecute hate crimes occurring in Puerto Rico. Earlier in the week, the legislature in Puerto Rico began consideration of Senate bill 2021 to eliminate gender, national origin, and sexual orientation or identity as protected classes related to hate crimes under the Puerto Rico penal code (see Rep. Gutierrez’ previous statement from Dec. 5). The Congressman, who has been an outspoken critic of what he considers a broad spectrum of erosions of civil and human rights in Puerto Rico under the current government regime, is now asking AG Holder to get personally and directly involved.
“If Puerto Rico doesn’t want to protect its residents from attacks, violence and murder, then the federal authorities need to step in and ensure the most basic rights of life and liberty are protected,” Rep. Gutierrez said. “The Attorney General has prioritized hate crime prosecutions and here we have the ruling party in Puerto Rico going in the completely opposite direction and it should not be allowed to happen on the Attorney General’s watch.”
Rep. Gutierrez’ letter asks the Attorney General consider “steps you can take to protect the communities that the ruling party in Puerto Rico has chosen to specifically put at risk.”
At least 18 LGBT individuals have been killed in Puerto Rico and a pattern of violence against women, transgendered, gay and lesbian people, and immigrants has been widely reported and was addressed in a landmark Department of Justice report on the systematic abuses of the constitutional rights of the Puerto Rican people by the police department of Puerto Rico.
The Congressman writes:
All Americans should be proud of the progress we have made in protecting all communities from hate crimes. We should be gratified that the trend in many states in our union is toward equal protection under the law without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and ethnic origin. I am greatly disappointed that the ruling party in Puerto Rico is taking active steps to deny justice and equality to all of its residents. I hope that the U.S. Department of Justice will take all possible steps to help protect all of the people of Puerto Rico.
The full text of the letter is available at (pdf): http://bit.ly/HolderLtrpdf