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. MeMelvin

    Santorum is unrealistic, under-educated, xenophobic and bigoted.

    His political vision is a narrow as his linguitic skill. Uni-lingual Americans need to get off their duff and on their dying.

    LEARN ANOTHER LANGUAGE, IT AIN'T THAT HARD!

    Well, maybe it is that hard, given the state of the USA educational system!

    March 15, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. Dave

    R. Santorum, you just shot yourself in the foot... While I agree with you totally on this, your idea is far fetched!! Since the Corporations and greed for money have eroded away the English language here in the United States. So unless you plan on having all Corporations automated answering systems and instruction booklets printed only in English your fighting a loosing battle. I can't read or write Spanish nor do I want to learn, BUT this country HAD used English as primary language. Except now when I go to vote and there are only posters of instructions in Spanish ??? I asked where the English version was and I was told we don't need it??? So your out...just stop now let Romney run hell he'll win hands down!! He'll be the first Spanish President whatever that means... So far we started with Obama he's the first Black President, so why not start a trend and put a Mexican in there...

    March 15, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. elgatoblanco

    It's not up to Rick "Frothy Mixture" Santorum. Also, there is no official language in the U.S. Some states have an official language (some have more than one), but there is no law on the federal level in regards to the official language. Plus most of the people there speak Spanish anyways.

    March 15, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. Joel

    Incredibly enough, I actually agree with Santorum for once. Puerto Rico should set English as it's principal language for government and public schools if it wants to obtain statehood, though I am by no means saying that Spanish should be eliminated from the island; Spanish should be on signs, papers, etc right on par with English.

    The biggest thing in all this, though, is whether Puerto Rico really wants to be a state or not. Seems to me as though they can't really decide.

    March 15, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. fernace

    There are 4 Universal languages spoken in nations & taught in schools all over the world! They are: 1)English 2)Spanish 3) German 4)French! Americans speak all of these languages & more! My family speaks Swedish, but it was a requirement in Swedish schools to learn English & either German or French! English came in handy when we moved to the US! It mat not be the Official language, but it is the Unofficial & most commonly spoken lanuage in this nation! Having said that, why would Santorum want to force a Spanish speaking island people to convert to English? And it seems he's the only 1 discussing Puerto Rican statehood! I think he's once again throwing a subject out there to deflect from the Real issues, which he has no answers to!!

    March 15, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. DemTex

    Absolutely pointless way to lose votes. Santorum and republicans are stuck on stupid.

    March 15, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  7. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Rudy NYC - 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.
    =============================================================================================
    The English language is the common bond that unites people. People in the USA that do not speak English are at a distinct disadvantage and will not assimilate very well into the culture. Rudy proposes the Balkanization of America. Where we have 20 different languages being spoken and 20 different cultures, all in their own little regions. Hardly "the UNITED STATES of America". Leftists, liberals and Democrats always think their way is better, even if the way it is has been working well for hundreds of years. They destroyed the public school systems with this same approach. Turned the best into the mess it is today.

    March 15, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. lloyd roberts

    Wow, big deal. Bishop Santorum doesn't really care about Puerto Rico and if the speak Spanish or Swahilli. He's just pandering to his hateful, born again, religious right constituents

    March 15, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  9. ClarasBeau

    It's amazing how all of the currently running Republican candidates seem to take a cheerful delight in making so many thoughtless statements. I hope somebody's collecting them. Surely there have been enough by now to fill a Volume One.

    March 15, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  10. Iris

    He needs a reality check. The majority of us "Puerto Ricans " are Bilingual, just beacuse we choose not to speak English doesn't mean we are less than and speaking "Spanish" is our right as a people. Maybe if he wants our vote it should be required for him to learn Spanish. Also, if we don't speak English you don't want us to be entitled to "Statehood" maybe we don't want it. When I was in Puerto Rico I didn't see a conveyer belt at the airport changining all of the people leaving into cheap, palefaced copies of "Santorum". He sought out Puerto Rico not the other way around so if he doesn't like whats there ... "Get off the island, go home!"

    March 15, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. Lenny Pincus

    Santorum is a second rate political corpse who would normally have dropped out of the race because he's so far behind. But this ego maniac loves the spotlight and loves lecturing on his idiotic view of the world. Unfortunately there is a fraction of the winger world that loves tripe.

    March 15, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. mecanico

    Here we go again; English Only movement did not, has not and will not work in the USA, let alone in Puerto Rico. Just to be clear, since this Ahole does not know anything about Puerto Rico, or its people, we are 100% US Citizens, not immigrants or illegals. We are among the most literate of the US citizens, learning English and Spanish in school since an early age. That we chose to speak Spanish is our right and no one can impose otherwise. Have you been to Little Havana in Miami, or El Barrio in Harlem, or else where Spanish speakers settle and chose to speak their Native tongue?
    Santorum and the other GOP candidates get failing grades for their outreach to the Hispanic community, or lack there of. Our Statehood aspirations will be determined by Puerto Ricans living on the Island, and will not be dictated to us by outsiders. That is the American way, or has the US Constitution changed since yesterday?

    March 15, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. clarke

    Ok, This man is crazy. I live in the upstate NY and when I call my drug store the first question asked"Press one for spanish then press two for English". Yes our primary is english, I don't disagree but everything in stores comes with spanish or english instructions. There are more spanish speaking people in Miami and LA, than English. Does this man live in a bubble.

    March 15, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  14. Seablade

    The official languages of Puerto Rico by law are English and Spanish.

    March 15, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Truth wrote:

    The English language is the common bond that unites people.
    ------------------
    Spanish is the most commonly spoken native language on the planet. The populations of Central and South America far outnumber the population in China, which most people assume to be tops. English is the most widely spoken language on the planet. It is the most common second language spoken on the planet.

    Languages do not unite people. If anything, languages have served to divide people, causing misunderstandings and other issues. Compromise and working together for a common cause is what unites people. Pouring the English language into people's private homes is divisive, and yet another example of the conservative version of "small government" that stays out of people's lives.

    March 15, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  16. LBAM

    what can you expect from a DUFF, AKA SANITORUM

    March 15, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. mecanico

    To answer Clarke, yes this man lives in a bubble, as does Romney and Gingrich. They have no clue what is going on around them; I guess one of these is the GOP's Great White Hope? lol

    Yes, Seablade you are correct, both are the official languages in Puerto Rico.

    Just an aside, check the NYC public schools' languages; they teach in several languages, to include, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Creole, to name a few.

    March 15, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  18. Kellie

    Bottom line is that Rick Santorum wants to create an anti-woman, white, male, non-immigrant theocracy in this country, led by James Dobson, Franklin Graham, Rush Limbaugh, and himself. Sounds like the ruling body of ayatollahs in Iran to me. He is one of the most dangerous politicians to come around in a very long time.

    March 15, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  19. Tony in Maine

    Let's see – Sanctus traded the female vote for the Catholic clergy vote, he now wants to trade the Hispanic vote for the English only vote.

    Please continue to vote for the sanctimonious one. LOL

    March 15, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  20. 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.
    __________________
    I'm not sure whether he said more than what is quoted in this article that gave you that impression, but from what I see, he is primarily referring to government functions, which includes schools. I truly don't see anything wrong with what he proposed and believe me that I despise his every other thought, especially since I am a Liberal and a Democrat and a fellow NYC-er. I fail to see where he suggests that government can intrude in someone's home and force them to speak only English. If PR is allowed to conduct business in Spanish once it becomes a state, if it ever does, then why don't we allow Louisiana to go back to conducting government business in French and Williamsburg to conduct local government business in Polish?

    March 15, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  21. Magda

    English is the de facto national language of the United States, with 82% of the population claiming it as a mother tongue, and some 96% claiming to speak it "well" or "very well."[3] However, no official language exists at the federal level. There have been several proposals to make English the national language in amendments to immigration reform bills,[4][5] but none of these bills has become law with the amendment intact. The situation is quite varied at the state and territorial levels, with some states mirroring the federal policy of adopting no official language in a de jure capacity, others adopting English alone, others officially adopting English as well as local languages, and still others adopting a policy of de facto bilingualism.

    March 15, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  22. The Real Tom Paine

    Not too many generations ago, there were over 400 German-language newspapers in this country, representing the biggest enthinc group to emmigrate to this country. Those immigrants have now thoroughly asimilated into our society. The mere existence of ethnic pockets and languages other than English has never posed a threat to the United States, or threatened to balkanize this country. English is the overwhelming language by which people communicate in this country, so going through the political theater of declaring something " official" simply to play to nativist sentiment is a waste of time and energy. Groups assimilate over time, and Spanish-speakers were largely confined to the Southwest and California for generations, and it will take generations for them to assimilate throughout the country. No amount of meaningless laws or resolutions will change or accelerate that process.

    March 15, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    @Pammy – What does the following Santorum mean?

    "Obviously Spanish will be spoken here on the island. But this needs to be a bilingual country not just a Spanish speaking country," he said.

    "country" He's not talking about just government. not at all. He's talking about people's daily lives. Santorum wants to walk into a store anywhere on the island and expect that English will be the only language that he will hear.

    March 15, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  24. freedom

    I am bilingual and i want to learn spanish and italian. i am very happy that i can write and speak both language fluently. I this guy is the one that need to learn a new language. more americans are becoming ignorant. learning a mother language is not crime. Have you notice that is the people who speak multiple languages are people in office. Some companies requires you to speak a foreign language fluently. This is the most stupid thing I have ever heard. Your children will not be brain to learn a second language. In fact has reported children who learn many languages do well in math and science.

    March 15, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  25. shootz

    Why would they want to become a state a pay federal income taxes? I believe most of the good paying jobs in PR are there because of the lack of federal taxation. COUGH COUGH pharmaceutical. Since 2008 I imagine its not a benefit.

    March 15, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
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