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. TM

    Ayatollah Santorum strikes again, treating the Constitution like toilet paper. He should try reading it instead, and LEARN exactly what the laws of this country actually are, and what the President can and can NOT legally do.

    March 14, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  2. Jamie from Riverside

    Typical of this tool to make up things. There is no constitutional language requirment.
    Why don't we require presidential candidates to undergo an intelligence test before they get to go out on the trail shooting their mouths off?

    March 14, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  3. Josh B Ohio

    There are only 28 states is the Union that have made "English" their official language.
    This is a gaffe for Santorum.
    When Santorum was a Senator for Pennsylvania, English was not the official language.

    March 14, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  4. Matt in Utah

    Before you start worrying about what Santorum would need in order to accept statehood for Puerto Rico, you might want to consider researching what Puerto Ricans want - seems to me every time the statehood issue comes up, they overwhelmingly vote AGAINST being added as a state. As recently as 2011, they wanted to retain their commonwealth status (note Puerto Rico is not a Territory of the US, it's a Commonwealth as defined by the Territorial Clause of the US Constitution, not the same thing). A vote is coming this November that will quite possibly result in Puerto Rico opting for total independence, thought statehood and a free association (similar to what currently exists) are also options. The majority party in Puerto Rico right now are proponents of the free association option, and they have maintained that majority for nearly five decads.

    March 14, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  5. fernace

    When did we start discussing Puerto Rico becoming a state!?This is the 1st I've heard of it! Is this really an important issue right this minute? With all the problems Americans have making ends meet, is this an issue Santorum wants us to focus on? I really don't care, I'll let Puerto Ricans worry about it if/when it becomes relevant! Right now I'm worrying about finding full time work, continuing my education & hope my benefits aren't cut before I'm financially stable again!!

    March 14, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  6. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    So according to Rick, speaking English is the only thing holding back Puerto Rico's statehood?

    March 14, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  7. TrueblueNC2

    Interesting....??? so what do we do with AZ, TX, CA, and many other places where we have many voters who do NOT speak Engish? I think they ought too; but, why isn't Santorum saying this all across the USA???

    March 14, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  8. Dilip Samuels

    Puerti Rico – Santorum says learn English and yes!! he might want you folks to be right wing evangelical intolerant Christians

    March 14, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  9. eddy atallah

    Especially in the Republican field, people love to hear that you want English as the primary language. Romney has said that he made his home state only allowed to teach English in schools, Gingrich is pushing for things like ballets to only be writing in English. Its not a new thing, many states can speak more then one language like Florida but just like Florida its required to make English the first language. Germany wouldn't want to add addition to its country and not make it speak German, It makes complete sense to me and if a country wants to me a state in America they need to have American English the primary language to be part of America. only makes sense..

    March 14, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  10. Uthor

    This guy is a veritable font of strange ideas. When you consider all of the former Spanish colonies which are now states in the US, it's really odd to make this a sticking point. For example, Spain did not cede Florida to the US as a territory until 1819, and it was not a state until 1845. Spanish would have been the primary language in most of California, which was a colonial territory of Spain, as was most of the Southwest, until 1847. The US is drenched with Spanish history, place names, language, and culture.

    Santorum is building his career on easily-disproved conventional wisdom and by appealing to the lowest common denominator. No wonder he thinks the educated are "snobs."

    March 14, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  11. Bobbi Aussi

    Santorum, with his anti-mormon comments about active Republicans in Hawaii (claiming he was doing well, until "the mormon enclave" came and voted him out of HI) is now showing his true character and how he will use religion and language against Puerto Ricans, and Americans in general.

    March 14, 2012 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  12. athensGuy

    why, if English is not the official language of any state of the union, or of the union itself?

    March 14, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  13. Ron

    Oops. Gues he doesn't want your votes PR!

    March 14, 2012 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  14. yona

    Wait, Hawaii isnt a state or a part of the US, because if it was then President Obama would be a natural born citizen of the United States

    March 14, 2012 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  15. Wingtips

    Well, this should give Santorum the lowest number of votes ever received by a major candidate. What an unbelievable move for a candidate, assailing an entire population's history and culture!

    March 14, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  16. chrisnot

    What do you call someone who speaks 3 languages? Trilingual
    What do you call someone who speaks 2 languages? Bilingual
    What do you call someone who speaks only one language? American

    March 14, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  17. steven harnack

    How about this: Give puerto Rico back to the Puerto Ricans and let them speak whatever they wish to.

    March 14, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  18. Jeremy

    Sounds very Santorum to me.

    March 14, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  19. Jeffer65

    Huge national debt, high unemployment, etc, and this is what Rick talks about?

    March 14, 2012 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "Hi, I'm Rick "the Ayatollah" Santorum, and if you're brown, I don't really want your vote."

    March 15, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  21. Bubba

    Ok... He is officially nuts.

    March 15, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. george of the jungle

    ok PR now you know how to vote. Im surprised he doesnt require you to be Catholic and creationist too.

    March 15, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  23. Tallchat_CoM

    If you think you're inevitable when your base doesn't like you ... you might be a Romney.

    If you think voters don't have memories ... you might be a Newt.

    If you think the constitution is based on your holy book ... you might be a Santorum.

    If you think women are brainless breeders ... you might be a Republican.

    March 15, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. Mike S.

    Wow.... really Rick? Of all the important issues facing our country, you want to appeal to your right wing base of bigots to demand that Puerto Rico adopts English as an official language. Keep it up Rick. Your continued strategy of distraction from real issues will get you a lot of votes from a lot of really dumb people. And a dumb vote counts as much as a smart one. And it will increase your profile after the election for your lobbying business inside the beltway.

    March 15, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  25. roscoe

    In Alaska, we can see PR from our backyards.

    March 15, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
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