Santorum says Puerto Rico must adopt English for statehood
March 14th, 2012
05:47 PM ET
2 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. RAWoD

    There he goes again - just pulling "laws" out of his nether-land. Who could possibly vote this piece of work in as POTUS?

    March 15, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  2. Randy, San Francisco

    Santorum can't seem to control what comes out of his mouth. He continues to alienate large bloc of voters like women and Spanish speaking.

    March 15, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  3. Pammy

    I completely agree with Santorum on this point, although I think he is an idiot most of the time. English may not be the official language, but it is the language that all our government business is done in and states that have previously joined the Union had to agree to conduct business in English. Puerto Rico should not be any different. This has nothing to do with discrimination, it's just the reality.

    March 15, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  4. JD Nelson

    Alas, I like Emily Litella better: "Ah, tonight's commentary is very important because I hear that President Ford wants to make Puerto Rico a steak! ..." from SNL Transcripts: Ralph Nader episode 1/15/77.

    March 15, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. Pedro

    The GOP is doing a great job ensuring they'll never get the brown vote. Not particularly bright considering whites will me a minority within the next 40 years.

    March 15, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  6. MaryM

    lol, just another joke candidate. The republican candidates are fighting it out in the primarys to see who gets the honor of losing to President Obama in the Nov 2012 general election.

    March 15, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  7. BLKMANinAmerica

    OK......................a question? Has P.R. people (at least 60%) expressed a desire to be a State within the United States? NO they have not sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo why even go there Santorum? I mean really, how rude are you by suggesting anything like this when the people within P.R. haven't requested, suggested or state an interest?

    March 15, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. Mike S. - Dayton, Ohio

    I can't believe Santorum would waste his lone statehood requirement for PR on English
    as the official language when he could have mandated that they expel all homosexuals
    or outlawed women's health care – something more in line with his true passions.

    March 15, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. Marlee

    Santorum is like a box of chocolate covered cherries...you always know what you're going to get.

    March 15, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. Christian Nutwhack

    See, if you speak English, we can come in and force Christianity down your – uh, I mean "help you to become born again".

    We're only looking out for your spiritual well being, ya know.

    March 15, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. Annie - Atlanta

    OMG! he's at it again!

    March 15, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  12. Sniffit

    Hehe...he's just trynig to stir up anti-statehood sentiment in PR because he doesn't really want all those brown people to become part of the US. I mean, just look at the conservative reaction to the already blossoming hispanic populations in certain states. Do you really think that these guys would willingly exacerbate the demographic shifts already causing them no end of existential worry for their party and white dominance over the country? Please. I would love to see the look on the GOP/Teatrolls' faces, especially the southern ones, if PR voted tomorrow and said "sure, we'll make Eglish our official language, now give us statehood" or was willing to jump through whatever other ridiculous hoops the GOP/Teatrolls' cultural myopia invents. Yeah, deer in headlights is my guess.

    March 15, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  13. Malory Archer

    Half of Miami-Dade doesn't speak English, despite being here for decades. Additionally, they got to stay in the U.S., whether their feet were wet or dry (stupid law BTW – if you're going to allow Cubans to stay if they make it to the beach it should apply to ALL who float in on rafts & innertubes, or it shouldn't be allowed at all), with all the free handouts they can consume courtesy of taxpayer. What does little ricky propose to do about THAT?

    March 15, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  14. Woman In California

    This is just another reason minorities will not cast their votes for the republicans in November. They seem to be intent on destroying minority livelihood. In any event, these nonelectables will trouble us no more in November.

    Obama 2012 for continued sanity and freedom.

    March 15, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  15. D Dawson

    He just lost the Florida vote. The swing voters in Central Florida are mostly Puerto Ricans. Do tread on their culture or their language.

    March 15, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  16. JJ

    Does PR even want state hood?

    March 15, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  17. Jt_flyer

    I actually agree with something Santorum said. Oh well. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    March 15, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  18. Bob89

    By my count, 35 of our States' names are "foreign" or non-English. Mostly native american, but also spanish and french.

    March 15, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  19. Private

    Where are all the Pro-Democracy persons on this news article: 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." This means that Congress has the right to IMPOSE rules to over 5 million US citizens that do not have any vote on the rules imposed to them. This is imperialism, not democracy. What happened to ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL. US Congress is behaving the same way that England was behaving before the Independence war.

    March 15, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  20. Framous

    I'm independent...voting for Obama again, and happily. Santorum is as crazy as the day is long, and he'll never be president.
    I love Puerto RIco...can't wait to go there again. But, if Puerto Rico really wanted to become a state....there is nothing strange, wrong or politically incorrect by requiring them to make the English the primary language. In China it's Chinese, Italy..Italian, France..French, Spain...Spanish, England and the U.S....English.

    If they don't agree...they can remain a territory. I'll go there either way.

    March 15, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  21. Annie, Atlanta

    And people vote for this guy. What's wrong with us?

    March 15, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  22. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    welcome to the world of Rick Santorum Puerto Rico. Speak ONLY English, don't send your kids to college or they will become snobs just home school them, if you have a loved one become pregnant due to a crime tell her to be thankful for God's gift and have the baby, and of course that sex for recreation stuff, just for PRO-creation only so birth control is not needed. Now go out there and cast your ballots.

    March 15, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  23. PoBoy

    Is there any more doubt now that this clown should not be any party's nominee for the President of anything? He's a pompous demagogue, who should only be in charge of his own house and family! Get loss Rick.

    March 15, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  24. Ron

    New Mexico has two official languages. English and Spanish.

    March 15, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  25. steve

    CHURH FREAK time to back to your hole

    March 15, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
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