Santorum says Puerto Rico must adopt English for statehood
March 14th, 2012
05:47 PM ET
3 years ago

Santorum says Puerto Rico must adopt English for statehood

(CNN) – Rick Santorum on Wednesday laid out one caveat he would hold for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico before it obtained statehood, saying the island would need to make English its principal language before it becomes a state.

Santorum portrayed the language requirement as a matter of federal law, though no language provision currently exists for territories seeking statehood. In the past, territories seeking admission to the United States have been required to adopt English as the language of state government.

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Speaking with the Puerto Rico newspaper Vocero, Santorum was asked if he would support statehood for an island where the primary language is Spanish.

"Like any other state, there needs to be compliance with this and any other federal law," Santorum said. "And that is that English needs to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language, like Hawaii, but to be a state of the United States, English must be the principal language."

Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution spells out how states can be admitted to the union, making no mention of language requirements. The passage states: "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."

A second clause states Congress has the power to "dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States."

In the past, Congress has passed "enabling acts" for territories seeking statehood, and has included provisions requiring English to be the prevailing language as a requirement for admission. The Louisiana Enabling Act of 1811 mandated the new state conduct its official business in the same language as the United States.

In 1906, Congress passed an enabling act requiring Oklahoma use English in its public schools before it obtained statehood.

There is currently no law declaring an official language of the United States, though several attempts have been made to give English that designation. Thirty-one states have passed laws naming English as their official language.

Both English and Spanish are official languages of Puerto Rico, though Spanish is by far the dominant language on the island. According to census data released in 2012, 81% of Puerto Rico residents spoke English "less than very well," with 95% saying Spanish was the language they spoke at home.

Congress would need to approve statehood for Puerto Rico after residents voted in a referendum. Many members of Congress, some of whom have pushed for a federal law declaring English as the official language of the United States, would no doubt raise the island's language as an issue before voting for statehood.

Santorum was campaigning in Puerto Rico Wednesday ahead of the territory's GOP primary on Sunday. There are 20 total delegates at stake.

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Filed under: 2012 • Puerto Rico • Rick Santorum
soundoff (152 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    Yep. When in doubt, alienate an entire subset of the population. Brilliant strategery by the Ayatollah. I'm sure the hispanic/spanish-speaking population in the US, growing faster than any other subset of our population, truly truly appreciates his sentiment here.

    March 14, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  2. Talkytalk

    I agree. There is no reason why they should not make English the principal language of Puerto Rico if they become a state, I doubt Puerto Rico will ever become a state, most people there like the commonwealth status and most of the Puerto Ricans I have meet do not like the United States anyways.

    March 14, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  3. Wvazoe

    Dios mio'

    March 14, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  4. TonyInNYC

    Americans should be free to speak whatever language they want, including Spanish and Native American languages. We need to amend the Constitution so we have freedom of speech.

    March 14, 2012 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  5. Thomas

    Rick Santorum is once again way ahead of himself .

    Santorum has accused heavy metal of being the cause of some of the worst crimes in American history including the attempt on the life of Ronald Reagan in 1981, 9/11 and the passage of Obama’s Health Care Bill. He stepped up his rhetoric in a speech on Wednesday when he implied that heavy metal is the cause of many forms of mental illness as well as lactose intolerance.

    March 14, 2012 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  6. Ken in MD

    The U.S. has no official language. This is not a requirement for statehood. Just because he wants it to be so, it isn't. Learn the Constitution, Ricky.

    March 14, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  7. Terry

    Really, Rick? You're campaigning in a territory and you don't even know whether A) they want to be a state or B) the requirements for becoming a state? Why are you even bothering? There are no evangelicals or baptists in PR, my friend....

    March 14, 2012 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  8. Ex-GOP Con

    Shouldn't the free marke drive that? And not some government mandate.

    March 14, 2012 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  9. SR

    Rick Santorum = FAIL
    Victories in the deep South have him back out on the trail with a big head thinking he's actually got a chance. Sorry, Rick. Just because the white, evangelical, ultra conservative folks in the deep South bought into your garbage just enough to give you a few more delegates than the other guys does not mean you are in any way a viable candidate. Time to bow out, Rick.

    March 14, 2012 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  10. Debbie

    And where does that apply in the US Constitution? Maybe its Roman Catholic Canon Law.

    March 14, 2012 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  11. Hmmm

    You see Rick, you are actually opposed by your own party on that front!! Now start toeing the line or Puerto Rico is going to hand over their delegates to Romney who by the way won't make States do something they aren't required to do!!!

    March 14, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  12. Howard's Daddy

    Making up rules as he goes along, Puerto Rico just got Rick Rolled.

    March 14, 2012 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  13. PJ/TX

    So, Santorum, defender of the Constitution, once again proves he is unqualified. Maybe he should learn to speak
    Spanish before campaigning in a predominantly Spanish speaking US territory. Looks like he is developing a big head to
    go along with his big mouth. How insulting for him to "issue" a caveat. Hope they see where this is leading and
    reject him.

    March 14, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  14. Marie MD

    Earth to really and truly crazy man. Puerto Rico is a Spanish speaking island!!! You are truly a jack arse, aren't you?
    Why should they make English their language?
    Too bad the people of Puerto Rico can't make you swim back to the US. Idiot!

    March 14, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  15. Marie MD

    Earth to really and truly crazy man. Puerto Rico is a Spanish speaking island!!! You are truly a jack arse, aren't you?
    Why should they make English their language?
    Too bad the people of Puerto Rico can't make you swim back to the US. What cnn, i d i o t was too strong a word for this imbecile?

    March 14, 2012 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  16. Susan

    English should be the national language. Period. Think of all the money that could be saved if tax payers didn't have to foot the bill for school, court and other social services translators.

    March 14, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  17. Mr. Izz

    So... is Santorum trying to force the English language upon the people of Puerto Rico even though it appears to be somewhat un-Constitutional?

    .... that's what it seems to be.

    March 14, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  18. Sue

    This is the man that will make everyone in the United States have the "Mark" on their forhead, just like it says in the bible. That will be the sign of the anti christ......

    March 14, 2012 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. cheryl

    Won't happen. Puerto Rico doesn't want statehood.

    March 14, 2012 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  20. Chad L

    Umm the rest of the actual states can't agree to have English the primary language so why should Puerto Rico have to? Though I will say I agree that English should be set as the primary language for the entire country.

    March 14, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    UGH! I guess another example of the "gotcha" media. No matter that this republicans are actually sayingn these things.

    March 14, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  22. stevenfbrackett

    Another day, another voting group insulted by a clueless Santorum.

    March 14, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  23. Jeff

    UGH. Really? First of all, Puerto Rico has been offered statehood and turned it down. 2nd, what requirement is he talking about. There is no requirement. People, you simply can't have this type of person in the highest office.

    March 14, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. Four and The Door

    This is an instance where I believe he should be more reasonable. I know he is desperate for whatever he can pull off in the last half of the nomination process, but does this approach really result in more delegates?

    March 14, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  25. Janey

    It's not a federal law yet, Rick. Here we see Santorum as Ayatollah creating his own laws. Methinks he is a closet fascist, si?

    March 14, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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