Jenniffer González-Colón, 41, is Puerto Rico’s representative to Congress. She lives in Carolina, Puerto Rico, near San Juan, and Arlington.
You are a pro-Trump Republican and the representative of Puerto Rico to Congress.
I’m a Republican, yes. I was with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio during the primary. But now I’m supporting the president, of course.
It seems like it’s a very large gap to bridge right now, between Puerto Rico and President Trump, who has been back and forth about full support for recovery. How do you do that?
One thing is receiving the help, the resources, the troops, boots on the ground, and federal officials calling you — and then seeing a tweet. It was not the same message he conveyed with me personally or to the agencies. He’s sending everything that is being requested. I got the opportunity to be on Air Force One. He was caring. He was listening.
You are the first female congressional representative of the island.
The youngest, too.
Do you think it makes a difference to have a woman in your position?
Definitely. When you need to convey a message, I do it with my heart. Being a woman in this situation puts you in the position of everyone there: your loved ones, your families, your friends, even the people you don’t know without a roof. I was there during the hurricane. I was holding the door all during the hurricane, as many people did.
Your front door.
My front door. When you heard your grandma tell you years before that they used to wash the clothes in the rivers, now you’re seeing that, people doing that. It’s like going back to the last century.
That’s the reason we need to become a state. We are Americans. We are nearly 4 million American citizens. And that’s the reason we need to solve this situation, so we can be treated differently, as a state.
What do you think it’s going to take to get statehood? Is there a realistic plan?
We voted this June. Ninety-seven percent of the people voted for statehood. I filed for a bill for letting Puerto Rico become a state in January of this year, and I definitely will be filing another bill.
I have a theory that D.C. would get statehood if it were more likely we’d vote Republican. Do you think that would work for you?
Most of the people think Puerto Rico will become a Democratic state, but the reality is we are very conservative on social issues. I think it would be balanced.
You still have student loans from law school. How many years serving in Congress until you can pay those off?
It will be a long time. I still owe $90,000. For staffers, actually, they receive for working here some kind of [assistance], but not for a member. Which is okay with me! I have a direct deduction from my check.
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