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Santorum Embarrasses Romney, Fortuno in Puerto Rico

By Suzanne Bibby on March 17, 2012 at 11:49pm

Originally published on VDARE.com

 

Both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum left Puerto Rico ahead of the March 18 GOP presidential primary. But their quick campaigns there succeeded in exposing the fundamental contradiction underlying the drive to make the Spanish-speaking island a US state—and resulted in yet another Romney flip-flop.

Rick Santorum dared to raise the language policy implications if Puerto Rico became a state. He said, quite correctly, that:

"English must be the main language. Other states have more than one language, like Hawaii, but to be a state of the Union, English has to be the main language.” [En suelo boricua Santorum, by Maricarmen Rivera Sanchez, El Vocero, March 14, 2012]

 

In response, Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuno, who has endorsed Romney, gave an interview to National Review Online scolding Santorum [Fortuño: English Requirement ‘Shouldn’t Be an Issue’ for Puerto Rico, by Brian Bolduc, March 15].

Of course, it was disingenuous for Fortuno to claim that language policy “shouldn’t be an issue” when Puerto Rico sends their petition for statehood to the U.S. Congress, which may occur as early as November 2012.   It will immediately and inevitably become an issue—just as it did back in April 2010 when an amendment offered by Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana to require Puerto Rico to conform to the de facto language of the U.S. federal government—English—overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 301 to 100 (111th Congress, 2nd session, Roll Call 237).

Maybe it slipped Fortuno’s mind.  After all, he has been furiously busy trying to conceal the language issue from Puerto Rican voters for the past five months—specifically while the Puerto Rican Congress was debating legislation to put the status referendum on the ballot on Election Day.

My organization, ProEnglish, asked to testify before the Special Status Committee in San Juan in November 2011 to make sure the issue of language was addressed—so that the Puerto Rican people could understand what statehood would actually mean for their culture (for example, they will lose their national anthem and their bid in the Olympics) and their language.

But our request was denied.  After all, what could have been more devastating to Fortuno’s case than to have a witness from the “mainland” testifying before Puerto Rican legislators in English and needing every sentence of her testimony, and every question from the committee, translated by an interpreter?

Also ignored by Fortuno and the Main Stream Media: Congress’ 2010 vote to “un-rig” the referendum process and give Puerto Ricans the option to maintain their present status, Commonwealth.  That amendment was offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina and it passed by a vote of 223 to 179.

As Fortuno noted, English is currently a dual official language with Spanish in Puerto Rico. But that hardly ends the debate.

If Puerto Rico petitions for U.S. statehood, it would be completely reasonable, and in keeping with precedent for territories with majority non-English speaking populations, that it will be expected to go the way of Hawaii.  That is, retaining two official languages but changing its official language policy to de facto English.  Hawaii still uses Native Hawaiian for some official ceremonies, documents, etc. But it does not conduct its daily state government business or teach school children in Native Hawaiian. That is done in English.

Anything else would be incompatible with making English the Official Language of the U.S.—something that all the GOP contenders claim to support. (Even Newt Gingrich just told El Nuevo Dia that, “to be a state, English should be the official language of government.”  (Romney defiende la estadidad en español, by Jose A. Delgado, March 16, 2012)

And here we come to Mitt Romney’s flip flop—and, this time, he doesn’t have the excuse that he changed his mind over the course of a decade.

On January 23, 2012, Romney said in the Florida debate:

“I think Speaker Gingrich is right with regards to what he's described. Look, English is the language of this nation […] But as a country to unify ourselves in a future in which there may well be 300 or 400 languages spoken in the United States, I think it is essential to have a central language.”

 

Then, just 52 days later, Romney told Kike Cruz of the Noti-Uno radio station in San Juan that he would not make Official English in Puerto Rico a condition of statehood—“I’m not looking for other conditions or other changes”. (Click here to hear interview.)

Either it is true that Romney will say whatever he thinks he needs to in order to win—or Fortuno got to him before he undercut all of the Statehood party’s schemes to suppress the language issue until after November….but, of course, it just might be both.

Overall, however, 87% of Americans want English to be made the official language of the U.S.  (Rasmussen, May 2010).

Voters should let Senator Santorum know that his defense of our common unifying language is appreciated, since he has stepped up to defend American values in an environment where it is not at all popular and where much-needed delegates are at stake.

 

Suzanne Bibby (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) is Director of Government Relations for ProEnglish in Arlington, VA.

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