By Robert Vandervoort, Executive Director
Potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Tuesday told a university audience in San Juan that he favors making the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico the 51st state. Other presidential hopefuls should not repeat this mistake.
Let’s recall that on Nov. 6, 2012 Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood governor was defeated by the pro-commonwealth candidate Alejandro Padilla. The election also resulted in the island commonwealth’s legislature flipping to the control of the pro-commonwealth party.
The defeated New Progressive Party and its ally Bush claim that a majority favors statehood, yet the 2012 election contradicted that. Furthermore, due to the rigged nature of the 2012 referendum involving the ballot wording, the fact is that more Puerto Ricans chose an option other than statehood. When you total the number of voters who left the second referendum question blank, plus those who voted for “free association” or independence, a whopping 55.4 percent voted for something other than statehood.
The recommendations from President Barack Obama’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status rightly recognizes that, if there is ever an application for a 51st state, Congress has ultimate authority over admission and English must play a central role in the daily life of the island.
The commonwealth is predominantly Spanish-speaking. When the issue is addressed by Congress, ProEnglish will vigorously lobby to give these task force recommendations some substance so that Puerto Ricans realize there would be strict English requirements as a condition for admission. At a minimum, a large majority of Puerto Rico residents— who are U.S. citizens— must become fluent in English for statehood to be even considered. In this context, Congress must mandate that any new state must adopt English as its primary language of government, which would also include the courts and schools. After all, English is our common tongue that unites all Americans— something Jeb Bush ignores when it comes to Puerto Rico.
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