Puerto Rican Statehood
No Puerto Rican statehood without English
On Feb 4, 2015, H.R. 727 (Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Process Act) was introduced in the House of Representatives. There are 111 Members in support of this legislation. The bill was assigned to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs on March 3, 2015. It remains in committee. ProEnglish attended several hearings in the spring of 2015.
In July of 2015, H.R. 870 garnered 41 supporters for the Chapter 9 Unification Act of 2015. It has had no additional movement. President Obama signed into law on June 30, 2016 The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act. This legislation establishes a board to oversee the U.S. territory’s finances including an orderly debt restructuring process and annual budget. This bill was promoted as a means to deal with the $ 72 billion in debt that Puerto Rico was unable to service.
ProEnglish opposes this bill for two reasons. First there is no provision in the bill that requires Puerto Rico to adopt English as the language of its government, which ProEnglish believes must be a pre-requisite for any territory or commonwealth to be admitted as a state. Second, the two stage plebiscite is a carefully contrived effort to get a majority of Puerto Ricans to vote in favor of statehood, something Puerto Ricans have repeatedly refused to do despite several attempts in the past. It is therefore undemocratic, manipulative, and an insult to the citizens of Puerto Rico.
New Generation of Puerto Ricans lacks language skills
33% of Puerto Ricans between the ages of 18 and 65 are bilingual (i.e., they spoke Spanish, but reported knowing English “well” or “very well.”). But among Puerto Ricans aged 5 to 18, however, less than 19% are bilingual. In both age groups, just over 14% spoke English only.
History of Puerto Rico, its status, and its official languages
1900: The island was surrendered to the United States military authority. On April 2, the Foraker Law (Organic Act of 1900) was approved, establishing civil government and free commerce between the island and the United States. The law was impulsed into Congress by Senator Joseph B. Foraker. Puerto Rico became first unincorporated U.S. territory. The new government had an American governor, with 5 Puerto Rican Cabinet members. The first civil governor (Charles H. Allen) of the island under the Foraker Act was inaugurated on May 1, in San Juan.
1902: The Official Languages Act (under the Foraker Act) was instituted and declared that in all insular governmental departments, courts, and public offices, English was to be regarded as co-official with Spanish, and when necessary, translations and interpretations from one language to the other would be made so that all parties could understand the proceedings.
1917: On March 2, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act. With this law, Puerto Rico: became a territory of the United States (“organized but unincorporated,”); had its citizens granted citizenship by act of Congress (not by the Constitution and therefore not guaranteed by it); established that elections were to be celebrated every four years; made English the official language.
1922: In the case of Balzac v. Porto Rico (258 U.S. 308) the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Puerto Rico was a territory rather than a part of the Union. The decision stated that the U.S. Constitution did not apply in Puerto Rico.
1946: A bill was passed ordering “the exclusive use of the Spanish language for teaching in all public schools.”
1950: Congress authorizes Puerto Ricans to draft their own constitution establishing the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
1967: The first plebiscite on the political status of Puerto Rico is held. Voters overwhelmingly affirm continuation of Commonwealth status.
1991: Puerto Rico declares Spanish the only official language of the island. Puerto Rico also rejected an amendment to “review” their country’s commonwealth status.
1993: Puerto Rico declares English and Spanish as the official languages of Puerto Rico. In a referendum, Commonwealth status is reaffirmed by voters.
Commonwealth……. 826,326 (48.6%)
Statehood………. 788,296 (46.3%)
Independence…….. 75,620 ( 4.4%)
Nulls…………… 10,748 ( 0.7%)
1998: Puerto Rico votes on whether to become a state, for the third time. The party opposed to statehood, dissatisfied with the ballot’s wording, encourages its supporters to vote “None of the above,” the option which receives the most votes:
Independent Nation with Free Association: 0.3%
Independent Nation: 2.5%
None of the above (commonwealth): 50.3%
Click here to read K.C. McAlpin’s October, 2009 editorial on Puerto Rican statehood.
Click here for more information on why ProEnglish opposes H.R. 2499.
Also see our Puerto Rican statehood press release.