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01.16.2014
This month we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his commitment and accomplishments for equality — including voting rights — during the civil-rights movement. Even though great voting rights accomplishments have been achieved over the decades, injustices still exist. [more]

Thursday January 16, 2014
Puerto Ricans, and others still denied voting rights

BY RICHARD R. ROBLES

RROBLES@ROBLESPA.COM

This month we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his commitment and accomplishments for equality — including voting rights — during the civil-rights movement. Even though great voting rights accomplishments have been achieved over the decades, injustices still exist.

U.S. citizens residing in American territories such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Samoa are denied the right to vote for president. The premise is that these territories are not states of the union, and therefore, U.S. citizens residing in these territories must be denied the right to vote.

But a U.S. citizen, for example, residing in, say, North Korea, under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, will still maintain his or her right to vote. This is the same for any other country that the citizen moves to as long as they resided in a state of the union prior to moving. However, a U.S. citizen who was born in a territory will never have the right to vote as long as they are a resident of that or another U.S. territory.

An immigrant can become a naturalized U.S. citizen and, once doing so, will have the right to vote for president of the United States, but a U.S. citizen born in the United States will not have the right to vote if they reside in a U.S. territory.

In the case of Puerto Rico, the argument has been made that Puerto Rico can simply become a state. That argument attempts to draw this injustice into the political realm. This is not a political issue but a constitutional one.

Puerto Rico has three main political parties, each vying for its own political cause. Each party has a distinct position on what Puerto Rico’s status should be. But this political debate on status has no bearing on the underlying right to equality being denied under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Still, constitutional arguments continue to be deflected in the federal courts. And the pretext is that the mechanism for correcting this inequality is through statehood. This pretext is fundamentally flawed.

There is an obvious and acknowledged denial of voting rights to U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. territories. Maybe Puerto Rico becoming a state someday will correct the Puerto Rican suffrage issue. But what about those U.S. territories that may never become a state? Will these U.S. citizens always be denied the right to vote?

As King put it “[a] right delayed is a right denied.” Even though the federal courts have posed this as a political question that they cannot decide and is best left to congressional legislation, the federal courts do have the power to declare unconstitutional this denial of equal protection of the laws, thus leaving the means of correction to the legislative branch.

Then politics comes into play again. Some argue that in the case of Puerto Rico, if its residents were to be granted the right to vote, then it would be a blue territory in favor of the Democratic Party. So the political fear is a preconceived notion that certain people will not vote a certain way and therefore they should be denied that very right to vote.

The argument also fails to recognize that states change from blue to red based on the person who is running and the effectiveness of the campaign. For example, Florida was red for George W. Bush but blue for Barack Obama. How can any political party think that it does not have to win the votes it needs? And a true and democratic election would require participation by all its citizens.

As we honor King and his accomplishments for the betterment of our country, we must remember that the civil rights movement is ongoing. As he said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Denying U.S. citizens this fundamental right to vote must not be permitted to continue, because one vote denied under such circumstances is as if no true vote was taken at all.

Richard R. Robles is founder and past president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida. He is an attorney in Miami.

 

The Miami Herald www.miamiherald.com January 16, 2014

10.26.2013
THE PUERTO RICAN BAR ASSOCIATION of Florida held its 10th Anniversary Gala on Miami Beach in conjunction with the PRBA’s annual Moot Court Competition, which was based on the constitutional and civil rights issues relating to the right to vote in Puerto Rico. [more]

Saturday October 26, 2013
Puerto Rican Bar of Florida celebrates 10th anniversary

THE PUERTO RICAN BAR ASSOCIATION of Florida held its 10th Anniversary Gala on Miami Beach in conjunction with the PRBA’s annual Moot Court Competition, which was based on the constitutional and civil rights issues relating to the right to vote in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans residing in Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections and do not have any voting representation in Congress. The Moot Court Competition took place in the Historical Courtroom at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. The competition was presided over by Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens, Judge Peter Lopez, and Justice Luis Gonzalez from New York. U.S. Congressman Pedro R. Pierluisi gave the keynote address on the civil rights concerns relating to the Puerto Rican suffrage issue. Pictured from the left are Alejandro Tirado-Luciano, treasurer; Hector R. Rivera, regional VP for the Third District; Yesenia Collazo, regional VP for the Fourth District; Richard R. Robles, president; Rep. Pierluisi; and the newly installed board of directors Judge Anthony Suarez, president; Gabriel A. Alonso, treasurer; Rudwin Ayala, regional VP for the Fourth District; Marie E. Masson, secretary; and Richard Valle, regional VP for the Fifth District.

 

Source: The Florida Bar News, November 15, 2013

09.26.2013
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a minute today to recognize a remarkable south Florida organization, the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida, that will soon be celebrating its 10th-year anniversary in Miami. [more]

Thursday September 26, 2013
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Recognizes the 10th Anniversary of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida

United States Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a minute today to recognize a remarkable south Florida organization, the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida, that will soon be celebrating its 10th-year anniversary in Miami.

Over the past 10 years, the association has been dedicated to public service in my home State of Florida, preserving the civil rights, the political rights and responsibilities of Puerto Ricans as Americans, as well as Floridians.

The Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida also serves as an educational tool for undergraduate, graduate, and law students through a Moot Court Competition, which will be held this year in conjunction with the association's historic anniversary.

I congratulate its president, Richard Robles, for his impressive work and wish everyone in the association continued success on behalf of the Puerto Rican community of Florida.

Floor of the United States House of Representatives, September 26, 2013

10.20.2012
THE PUERTO RICAN BAR ASSOCIATION of Florida, Inc. recently celebrated its Ninth Annual Gala at the EPIC Hotel in Miami. The theme was “Voting is Empowerment.” [more]

Tuesday November 20, 2012
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson attends PRBA of Florida 9th Annual Gala

THE PUERTO RICAN BAR ASSOCIATION of Florida, Inc. recently celebrated its Ninth Annual Gala at the EPIC Hotel in Miami.  The theme was “Voting is Empowerment.”  The event began with the national anthem and La Borinqueña, by Harold Hernandez on his cuatro, a traditional Puerto Rican guitar.  This was followed by the keynote speaker U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, who spoke about the Puerto Rican history and its influence on Florida, pointing out Juan Ponce de Leon as the first Governor of Puerto Rico.  The President of the PRBA, Richard R. Robles, addressed the constitutional voting rights issues affecting Puerto Ricans on the island and the need to vote on the behalf of those who are disenfranchised.  Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens spoke about pro bono and public service.  The newly installed board of directors includes: Robles, President; Luis Figueroa, regional VP for the Second District; Hector Rivera, regional VP for the Third District; Yesenia Collazo, regional VP for the Fourth District; Anthony Suarez, regional VP for the Fifth District; Alejandro Tirado-Luciano, Treasurer; and Nicholas G. Rossoletti, Secretary.  Pictured from the left are Hector Rivera, Alejandro Tirado-Luciano, Robles, Nicholas G. Rossoletti, Sen. Bill Nelson and Yesenia Collazo.

The Florida Bar News, November 15, 2012, Page 36.

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