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. Georgia Tee

    Is this mindset the result of home school ?

    March 15, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    ""Yeah, but that was BEFORE they lost to a black dude and got a giant walking veto-wielding talking reminder that white majority and control is shrinking rapidly in this country."
    --–
    You sound like a broken record. EVERYTHING to you is about race. EVERYTHING. And yet it's YOU that has to inject it into EVERY comment or conversation. You're a sorry soul to be sure."

    ====

    Calls 'em like I sees 'em. However, I'd like an explanation as to how I'm the one "injecting" race into a conversation about an article that centers on an arrogant white man telling an entire non-white country and culture that it if they want to play with us in Whitey's World, they must assimilate like the Borg. Besides, I'm not the one who pitched a 3+ year temper tantrum with blatant racial overtones and pervasive race-based themes and memes. Have you assimilated the talking points about Obama being a radical anti-white activits with professor Bell yet or have you not gotten the memo yet?

    March 15, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  3. MiketheElectrician

    He just lost all latino vote..What a joker! Keep the clowns of teh GOP coming..

    March 15, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    Besides, Fair, I'm not part of the crowd that pitched a 3+ year temper tantrum with blatant racial overtones and pervasive race-based themes and memes in response to the election of a black man. Now, you seem to be falling behind...have you assimilated the talking points about Obama being a radical anti-white activist indoctrinated by professor Bell or have you not gotten the memo yet?

    March 15, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. Ken

    Welcome to the Land of Ayatollah Santorum!

    March 15, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. K. Mejia

    The guy shows his ignorance every time he opens his mouth.

    March 15, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  7. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Calls 'em like I sees 'em. However, I'd like an explanation as to why I'm somehow the one "injecting" race into a conversation regarding an arrogant white man telling an entire non-white country and culture that it if they want to play with us in Whitey World, they must assimilate like the Borg
    ===========================================================================================
    Arrogant is YOUR OPINION and again, you add white Isn't anybody just a man to you? Also Puerto Rico is NOT a country. And they can go play someplace else! Most people in the USA would LOVE it if they did! And what's with "Whitey World"? Again, race baiting remarks. Very pathetic.

    March 15, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  8. Darlene

    Santorum sees things black or white, no grey for him. The guy is as closed minded as any other racist. Santorum knows his chances for the nominate is small, he knows his chances of beating Obama even smaller, he continues to run and hurt our chances of taking the WH because the longer he runs the more money he makes for himself.

    March 15, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  9. Fair is Fair

    "Calls 'em like I sees 'em. However, I'd like an explanation as to why I'm somehow the one "injecting" race into a conversation regarding an arrogant white man telling an entire non-white country and culture that it if they want to play with us in Whitey World, they must assimilate like the Borg"
    -----
    Uh huh. Sure. Right after YOU tell the rest of us what Puerto Rico and the English language has to do with "electing a black dude". The answer is NOTHING. The fact that you bring it up constantly really is nothing but a sign of some deep rooted insecurity YOU have with YOURSELF. Get over it.

    March 15, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. billy davis

    The GOP " we like to out-stupid each other"

    March 15, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  11. johnmenacherjr

    I realize this is important to Peurto Rico. Last week it was another hot button issue from him and then theres the economy and everything that matters nationally What is wrong with these goof balls we have enoough to deal with these matters occur in their own time. kind of like trying to get rid of contraception by tying it to a transportattion bill what a bunch of idiots! Santorums their drum major!

    March 15, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  12. Lar 5

    It seems to me that if you don't play by his rules you can't be in his club. He eliminates everyone that is not an ultra right wing, white male zealot.

    March 15, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. Patriot Awesome

    Is it the GOP plan to win with only the male white conservative christian vote? I know they don't support science and education very much, but come on, at least try doing some math.

    March 15, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  14. Terry

    Good grief, would someone explain to Mr. Santorum what bilingual mean. Most of the voters in Puerto Rico can understand that he are calling them stupid.

    March 15, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  15. Roger

    Living in South Florida I can't stop laughing at this idiot's comments. The GOP of most recent years have groomed idiots to represent conservatives.
    Re-ellect Obama and turn the House in 2012.

    March 15, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  16. Jim

    The facts are that many Departments and agencies within the US Government require English for all documents and records. The FAA requires English for documents. Can anyone show a bill passed by congress in any language other than English? English is the language of the USA by default in that all official business is conducted in English. It should be made law so that we do not have to read stupid articles like this.

    March 15, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  17. ART

    All spanish people pay attention Rethuglicans don't like you, you speak the language of th ghetto. Wake up and smell the coffee. They want to take America back , back to the stone ages

    March 15, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  18. GOP Hate America

    why does this dude keep getting votes....oh yeah conservatives are as dumb as he is.

    March 15, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "Uh huh. Sure. Right after YOU tell the rest of us what Puerto Rico and the English language has to do with "electing a black dude". The answer is NOTHING. The fact that you bring it up constantly really is nothing but a sign of some deep rooted insecurity YOU have with YOURSELF. Get over it."

    Orly? What insecurity would that be? Some subconsious guilt syndrome resulting from being able to recognize a blatant pattern and connect the dots when I see them? This isn't some vast conspiracy theory. The past 3 years are replete with evidence that fear of losing white majority and the marginalization of white control over the US is a major underlying driving force in the GOP/teatroll/conservative community. Deny it all you want and accuse me of silly things all you want, but I'm not the only one who sees it as clearly as if it's written on the GOP's proverbial forehead.

    March 15, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. Kareen

    Santorum you have some nerve!

    March 15, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  21. Living-in-VA

    It seems to me before a person would post any message referring to making American English the official language, that person would have a strong grasp on writing and spelling American English. (Just a thought) By the way, how many of your ancestors or not so distant relatives who immigrated to this country could not speak American English? Do not confuse what I am writing to be un-American. I do agree that for official (government, state, local) business purposes, English should be a requirement. However, what a person chooses to speak when not conducting official business is none of my or your business. As far a Puerto Rico is concerned, Santorum had no right to tell these people if they want to be citizens (achieve statehood) they should make American English their official language. He is not a government official (Congressman) nor is he the POTUS. I would not like to see either of those things happen.

    March 15, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. kuewa

    Another ridiculous and unwarranted pronouncement by a Republican candidate. The US is already one of the only developed countries where the educated population is not multilingual. Most Puerto Ricans speak both Spanish and English, which puts them far ahead of most US citizens who live in the States.

    March 15, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. Norm

    Theres a whole lot of angry comments here.
    Doesn't really matter.
    This clown isn't ever going to be president of anything.
    Chill...
    Obama is set for another four and even 2016 won't want anything to do with these GOP punks.

    March 15, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    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.
    -------------------
    All of that stuff that you just wrote makes a good and valid point. Government does need a single, or at least agreed upon form(s) of communication. Unfortunately, that is not what Senator Santorum was saying at all. What Santorum said goes far beyond how government conducts business straight into people's homes where they speak Spanish, or other languages. Rick seems to feel that if you live in America, then you should speak like an American.

    March 15, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. batjones

    Maybe one reason why the United States does not have an official language is because the United States conducts business in multiple languages. I believe the free trade agreements that Republicans have been promoting throughout Latin America are written in both English and Spanish. I just heard a story on National Public Radio that reported how the state of Utah is benefitting from Mormon missionaries that have returned home with strong foreign language skills. These skills have brought back telemarketing and help desk jobs to the United States. We must have global level skills if we are going to compete on a global level. I guess Mr. Santorum believes speaking any language other than English is for snobs.

    March 15, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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