March 15th, 2012
08:47 AM ET
10 years ago

Puerto Rico official: Santorum's view is narrow

(CNN) - The sole Congressional member from Puerto Rico on Thursday hit back against Rick Santorum's call for English to become the official language of the U.S. territory as a requirement for statehood.

"Santorum's view is narrow and a limiting view of what America is all about," Pedro Pierluisi, a Democrat, said on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien" "English is the predominant language in the U.S. and will continue to be so, whether Puerto Rico becomes a state or not."

While campaigning on the island Wednesday, Santorum told a newspaper that in order for Puerto Rico to become "a state of the United States, English must be the principal language." Puerto Rican voters will weigh in on a referendum regarding possible statehood in November.

There is currently no law, however, declaring an official language of the U.S., though several attempts have been made to give English that designation. Thirty-one states have passed laws naming English as their official language.

The Constitution also makes no mention of a language test for territories or properties that wish to become states.

Both English and Spanish are official languages of Puerto Rico, though Spanish is by far the dominant language on the island.

"In Puerto Rico, 90% of our parents want their children to become fluent in English," Pierluisi, the island's resident commissioner, said. "So, it's a non-issue and shouldn't be a factor in determining whether Puerto Rico can join the union or not."

While Republican Gov. Luis Fortuno endorsed Mitt Romney in January, Santorum has been actively courting Puerto Rican voters this week ahead of the island's primary on Sunday. Romney is scheduled to campaign in Puerto Rico starting Friday.

Pierluisi said he expects Romney will win the contest, but the Democratic representative argued President Barack Obama will fare better in the general election.

"(Obama) has told the people of Puerto Rico that he will support the will of the majority of the people of Puerto Rico when the time comes for them to express themselves on the status issue," Pierluisi.

While 20 delegates are at stake in Sunday's primary, Puerto Rico is not allocated any electoral votes in November's election.

- CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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Filed under: 2012 • Latinos • Puerto Rico • Rick Santorum
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. amlcpamaine

    I wouldn't ask Puerto Ricans to speak English contrary to their culture. I would ask Santorum and his wingnuts to speak common sense and for the people, not just for their own twisted beliefs. But, then again, that's against their culture .....

    March 15, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  2. coy4one

    I can understand requiring English in the State government, but requiring English throughout Puerto Rico is stupid! Yes, it should be taught in school, but Puerto Rico has a long history of being a Spanish-speaking territory and taking that away, takes the beauty of the people away. American Indians live in the United States and they are allowed to speak their native tongues. California, Arizonia, New Mexico, and Texas all border Mexico. We don't "require" that they all MUST ONLY speak English. Most the schools teach ESL (English as a Second Language). This is another example of how the GOP wants to control the people, not work with them.

    March 15, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  3. ST

    What is wrong speaking the international language and understand each other. Am not Santorum fan BUT the man was quite right. Everyone should speak the language which is approved worldwide.

    March 15, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    "Santorum's view is narrow." Even a home schooled 5th grader could figure that one out. But, hey. Santorum is shining example of conservatism in this country. His biggest problem is that he doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut. He likes to telegraph his moves.

    March 15, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  5. Phil in KC

    "Santorum's view is narrow..." Ya think?! Narrow-mindedness is what he and his followers are all about.

    March 15, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  6. Enough is Enough

    As usual Rick is not looking at what's most important regarding an issue. Puerto Rica's personal per capita income in 2010 was $14,237 by comparison, Mississippi's was $30,399 only 43% of Mississippi residents paid fereral income tax. The answer should be we don't need more poor people taking more than they give back. Just say no to statehood.

    March 15, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  7. Al-NY,NY

    While you're at it Rick....what else is "required"? That they don't fund contraception? Prayer in all schools? Define marriage as a man/woman? Get over your pompous arrogance. Right now you're sole purpose is to drag Mittens farther and farther to the right, thus dooming him in November. Past that, you don't stand a snowballs chance in ..... of winning anything

    March 15, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  8. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    ST asked about the "International" language. I guess that means we should all learn to speak the most commonly used language in the world – Mandarin Chinese. Or would he prefer the second most common language – Arabic? Maybe the third – Spanish?
    As far as a common tongue, English ranks below those three, as well as Hindi and Russian, and is only slightly ahead of Urdu. And for the wise guys who will point out England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – you cannot count sheep among the English speakers!
    Oh, Wait! That's right! Santorum would require all of us to understand Latin, so we could actually understand what is being said at the only religious service he thinks should be legal!

    March 15, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  9. Maria Rodriguez

    Yo hablere cualquier idioma que quiero hablar y lo puedo haces en espanol and in English.

    March 15, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. Commonsense

    Que? Spanish 101

    March 15, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  11. Mikey

    @Joe – "ST asked about the "International" language. I guess that means we should all learn to speak the most commonly used language in the world – Mandarin Chinese. Or would he prefer the second most common language – Arabic? Maybe the third – Spanish?"
    While I was thinking about a response to the xenophobic and arrogant ST, I read your response and though you hit the nail on the head with the above. The "ugly American" is an embarrassment to intelligent Americans and an impediment to achieving both our domestic and international goals.

    March 15, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  12. rs

    Just more racism from the GOP. What happened to these guys? They used to be the sane voices of reason. Now they are just drooling radicals personiifying the single greatest backward step in humanity.

    March 15, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |