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. bigtimetopbanana

    Hmm... Aren't we "A Nation of Laws", governed by The Constitution? I don't see anything in The Constitution about English needing to be a pre-condition. And just as a number of states have decided on an official language, that is where the decision is made.

    March 15, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  2. Laurie in Spokane

    So Santorum went to PR to drum up votes for delegates. Strange way to go about it, to tell them they must have English as their prime languate in order to be eligible to become the 51st. State Can't figure out WHY they must have English primarily, as that is not required anywhere else in the nation. Of all the stupid things to emphasize, this is about on top. BUUUUUUUT, considering the originator, not terribly surprising.

    March 15, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. CaliforniaBC

    So...Santorum doesn't really want ANY of the Puerto Rico votes I guess.

    March 15, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. rika33

    I think the Balkans and Africa are good examples of multi cultural areas. A nation needs a unifying language and culture. Denying that ignores history and human nature.

    March 15, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  5. Emmy Skaddittle

    so why are the republicans attacking Latinos at every turn? They are just telling them to vote for Obama

    March 15, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Big difference between Rick and Mitt. Mitt would have spoken some Spanish and bragged about eating mafungo. Then, he would have insulted everyone. Rick just cut straight to the chase, though.

    March 15, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  7. Gaylon Barrow

    You need to take it a step further making it mandatory for all applicants for U.S. citizenship be able to speak English, our National language.

    March 15, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    Puerto Ricans tend towards speaking in a combination of english and spanish that is referred to as spanglish. Thusly, neither language is properly mastered. I don't generally agree with Santorum but I can see where he was headed with this. Unfortunately he hasn't mastered the art of communicating his ideas without coming across like The Little Catholic Dictator, what few viable ideas he has, that is.

    March 15, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  9. steve

    Santorum is nuts but isn't alone in doing everything possible to set this nation back decades including this rediculous demand that the people on the island of Puerto Rico commit themselves to English. It isn't bad enough that our late 19th century colonial efforts resulted in our taking Puerto Rico from Spain; Santorum would like to wipe out their language, history, customs... Also, The number one language spoken worldwide would appear to be Mandarin. Number two is SPANISH. Number three is English and this is often as a second language.

    March 15, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  10. Randy, San Francisco

    Dumb and dumber. Next time the National Republican Committee claims the party has a big tent and wants to attract more Hispanic voters, remember the words of Santorum.

    March 15, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  11. TheMagusNYC

    Just when I was beginning to think this guy was making sense, apart from religious views, but this reveals some kind of brain damage, to make Puerto Rico's "principle language" English; one could not apply that to NYC or LA!

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

    Republican plan to fix the economy so far
    1) Mandate English – check
    2) Prevent women from getting health care – check
    3) Push Religion down throats -check
    How can they lose with that battle plan ?

    March 15, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  13. JT

    In a close race where every delegate counts Rick can say adios to the Puerto Rican delegates. What a waste of money to take a flight down there just to insult them (many of whom already speak English).

    March 15, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    If Mr. Santorum had a peek at the way people in the states express themselves in "English" on this thread, he'd lay off Puerto Rico.
    Obama 2012. Seriously America.

    March 15, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. TruthbeTold9n

    I don't like anything about Santorum.But i agree,people coming to America and want to live in America should know/learn english.When you go to other others countries you have to adapt and speak to them in their own language,Or hope you run into someone that speak english.And it's really ashamed spanish speaking people find this offensive.You go to Mexico,Puerto Rico,Chile,Cuba ect.You have to know spanish.This is an english speaking country,you should know english..It's not racism or favortism,It's respect for where you're going.We americans have cater to others TOOOO much. "And i'm a Liberal Black Man"

    March 15, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  16. cathstar

    So, Santorum thinks he's campaigning in a Spanish-speaking COUNTRY. What a dope!!! I honestly don't think he knows that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. Perhaps we should make what Santorum speaks our official language - GIBBERISH!

    March 15, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    Aaaw, isn't that cute....the guy who can't even manage to speak SENSE is telling everyone else to speak English.

    March 15, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  18. Independent In Albany

    Gotta wonder when the GOP is going to figure out that 2 out of 3 hispanics vote republican...until the GOP kicks them in the teeth.

    March 15, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  19. randybuist

    If Yahweh created the Spanish language as good, then why isn't it good for you too?

    March 15, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  20. JT

    Someone needs to tell Santorum that Hispanics are the largest minority and in 40 years one in three Americans will be of Hispanic descent. We are becoming a bilingual nation whether Senator Santorum want us to be or not.

    March 15, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Someone needs to point out to Rick Santorum that it is impossible for Puerto Rico "to become a primarily English-speaking country" because they are already a territory of this country, The United States of America.

    The man thinks that he is in a foreign country for crying out loud. What a gaffe that is.

    March 15, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  22. Turtle52

    Reply to Gaylon Barrow:

    Sorry to say you can't take the U.S. citizenship test unless you speak and read English, as the test is in English.
    You have to live in the U.S. 5 years or be married 3 years to a U.S. citizen before you can take the test. You need to brush
    up on things before you post a remark.

    March 15, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  23. cali girl

    Just another reason to not vote for this clown. Way to alienate a very large group of voters.

    March 15, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  24. Russ

    Yep with Rick it's his way or the highway!

    March 15, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    @TruthbeTold9n: I understand your point. May I submit to you,however, that America is the only major industrial country where it is not only accepted but encouraged for its' citizens to speak only ONE language. Yet when we travel to other countries we tend to act like the Ugly American if no one else around us speaks English. Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and many other spanish-speaking countries/commonwealth make a concerted effort to have front-line clerks who are bilingual enough to deal with the tourist clientele. But when people from other countries come here on vacation we expect THEM to be able to communicate in English with us! May I go further by adding that during a term abroad in Italy( many decades ago!) I could not help but notice that common everyday folks there spoke AT LEAST three languages.
    America in this respect, and some others, has got to "catch-up" with the rest of the civilized world, and stop acting as if English should be spoken by all world-wide. IMHO, of course.
    Obama 2012. Seriously America.

    March 15, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
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