March 15th, 2012
01:21 PM ET
3 years ago

Santorum stands by English condition for Puerto Rico statehood

(CNN) – Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on Thursday defended a condition he said Puerto Rico must meet to be eligible for statehood: "English needs to be the principal language."

Campaigning in the territory ahead of their Sunday primary, Santorum had on Wednesday said, "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."

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Speaking to CNN's National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta on Thursday, he stood by his comments.

"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. "Right now it is overwhelmingly Spanish speaking but it needs to have in order for it to integrate into American society, English has to be a language that is spoken here also and spoken universally."

Romney stakes opposition to Santorum over language issue

Puerto Rico designates both English and Spanish as official languages. There is no federal law stipulating an official language, but 31 states have adopted measures and Congress has included adoption of English as a requirement for statehood in previous cases.

Voters will be surveyed on their interest in statehood in a November referendum.

Asked by a reporter if the language issue would be a deal breaker, Santorum said he considers the matter important.

"I think that would be a condition," he said. "I think it's important."

The territory's delegate to Congress, Democrat Pedro Pierluisi, said on CNN's Starting Point Thursday that, "Santorum's view is narrow and a limiting view of what America is all about."

"English is the predominant language in the U.S. and will continue to be so, whether Puerto Rico becomes a state or not," Pierluisi added.

One of Santorum's delegates withdrew his support for Santorum over the matter, according to a local newspaper report. The Vocero paper reported that Hector Perez said he was no longer committed to Santorum. The party chair told the paper that one of the alternate delegates submitted by Santorum's campaign would fill the spot.

Puerto Rico holds a Republican primary on Sunday to allocate 20 of the territory's 23 delegates. Delegates will be distributed proportionally among candidates earning over 15% of the vote unless one candidate wins over 50%. In that case, he will receive all 20 delegates.

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Filed under: 2012 • Puerto Rico • Rick Santorum
soundoff (210 Responses)
  1. Sherwin

    It has become apparent with the spit in the Republican party between the neon-conservatives and evangelicalism that they don't stand a chance of winning except Ron Paul. Their views are reactionary to where America is heading. With Santorum the more he opens his mouth, the more we know he's nothing but a 'buffoon.' Puerto Rico will never become a state as they have voted it down on numerous occasions.

    March 15, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  2. Zoe

    First of all, Rick Santorum will never be president of this great country, so his thoughts are irrelevant. Secondly, I have yet to meet a Puerto Rican that doesn't speak English. Thirdly, much of the island doesn't want statehood and wants to seceed from the US. Lastly, there are plenty of people in this country who don't speak much English either. Last time I checked, this was a free country, one founded for the purposes of religious and individual freedoms. Santorum's comments prove he is incapable of being a leader of this nation, a representative for all citizens. The notion that all people of this country should have the same religion, beliefs, race, or language is preposterous... America is a melting pot, that's what makes our country great – it's diversity and allowance of individual liberties. Dictating that all people must be the same in any respect is entirely un-American and sounds more like a totalitarian dictatorship than a democratic society.

    March 16, 2012 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  3. steve

    How abouit we start with the south first, they can't speak english

    March 16, 2012 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  4. James

    Nothing like stirring up prejudice to get Republican voters on your side.

    March 16, 2012 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  5. Pat

    I have been trying to look at the Republican party candidates because I don't think we can afford another 4 years with Pres. Obama at the helm. I don't like his economic nor international policies nor the way the government has taken freedom away from citizens –and yet, there is no way to really examine a Republican candidate that most people can swallow. Take Mr. Santorum, for example, really...you go to Puerto Rico and the most important comment you can make is tell them that the only way Puerto Rico can be a state is if English is their official language. Before making a demand like that, offending american citizens -because that's what Puerto Ricans are-citizens of the United States, take a moment to learn about Puerto Rico and its people. For more than 100 years the Puerto Ricans have served the United States in all its capacity. We have housed and served the US military to the detriment of our ecology. We have served in US Wars. Died and bled for you. We have assimilitated the language, the culture and the life of the United States, loving the US flag and what it represents as part of us. We have worked, mostly in US companies. Gotten degrees, worked at NASA and given you our loyalty -yet that is not enough for Santorum. We are bilingual, Santorum, and proud of it. My children and grandchildren speak Spanish and English just as well which has served us very well when we look for jobs. Learn who we are before making a statement. After 100 years of being part of the US, is making English the official language the most important thing that would stop the US from making us a state??? Really? From a Puerto Rican living in Texas, well then NO, THANK YOU! And incidentally, you just lost every single delegate in Puerto Rico for your campaign. Idiot!

    March 16, 2012 05:22 am at 5:22 am |
  6. Maggie

    There is no federal law for any other state requiring that English be the primary language. Do you mean to tell me that the stuff they speak in those southern states qualifies as English?

    March 16, 2012 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  7. Rodney

    My Grandma, a 95 years old Puertorican woman can speak better English than any hillbilly!!!!. Back in the 1900 until the late 40s they were forced to learn and speak English in the Puertorican Schools. The law changed later but still English is still taught at the public and private schools. I'm a product of the Puerto Rico public schools, proud of it and working for the Federal Government in DC.

    March 16, 2012 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  8. mike

    Does this guy really think Independents are going to vote for him? It was stupid thing to bring up and now the media has gotten their teeth into it and won't drop it. Serves him right for being such an idiot.

    March 16, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  9. ITPR

    If there was any chance for Puerto Rico to become a state Santorum set it back a few years with his misinformed opinion. Puerto Ricans historically are very sensitive to the issue of English being the dominant language when it comes to statehood. Doesn’t he realize that in the minds of a lot of people on the island he is basically asking Puerto Ricans to strip away their Spanish heritage? That’s about 400 plus years of history and heritage. Believe me, I have brought up this topic in the past with family and friends on the island and the mere mention makes people heads spin. Doesn’t Santorum know that Puerto Rico has one of the highest voter turns outs in the world? It was about 79% in 2008. I’m guessing he just doesn’t care about the primary in Puerto Rico or the Hispanic vote in the mainland should he be the Republican nominee.

    March 16, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  10. billb

    The USA should be bilingual....English and Chinese

    March 16, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
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