Santorum Tells Puerto Ricans They Must Speak English for Statehood

Mar 15 2012 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

Gov. Luis Fortuño and Rick Santorum

What is it with Republicans and the Constitution? They can read the thing in Congress (well, sort of…) and still get it all wrong. We’re all too familiar by now with the GOP’s un-constitutional position that you have to be a Christian to hold public office. Well, Rick Santorum seems to think you have to speak English in order to achieve statehood; that’s what he told a crowd of Puerto Ricans on Wednesday. He seems as unaware of the Constitution as any of his fellow Republicans.

Why is this important? As Reuters reports, the Puerto Rican Republican primary is on Sunday, and on November 6 a referendum will address the question of statehood for the Commonwealth and its four million inhabitants. On previous occasions (1967, 1993, and 1998) the island has chosen to remain a territory. Nationalist sentiment on the island led to violence in the 1930s and 40s and again in the 70s and 80s. There are certain advantages for Puerto Ricans in the island’s existing status, as they do not pay income taxes and they receive federal funds. Oh, and Mitt Romney supports statehood, so what else can Santorum do? Well, okay, try to do in a bumbling Perry-esque fashion.

In an interview El Vocero newspaper, Santorum had this to say:

“We need to work together and determine what type of relationship we want to develop.”

So far so good. Short and simple.It is true that if Puerto Ricans opt for statehood in November, Congress would still have to approve that change in status. But then he had to go and attempt to elaborate:

“Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law. And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language.”

The Constitution says no such thing, of course. Not only does the Constitution not designate an official language for the United States, it does not demand an official language as a re-requisite for statehood.

As it is now, Puerto Rico recognizes English and Spanish as official languages, a not-unreasonable policy given the island’s long control by Spain. It was ceded to the U.S. by the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens in 1917.

Because Santorum doesn’t think Puerto Ricans should be allowed to vote for president – being only an unincorporated territory and not a state – he further risks the ire of Puerto Ricans at home and abroad: as many Puerto Ricans live on the mainland, a crucial million of them in Florida (where English IS the official language), as on Puerto Rico itself, It is hardly the only unpopular view Santorum holds of course, or the first time he has stuck his foot in his mouth. What better way to follow up a declaration of war on FOX News than to declare war on Puerto Rico?

The November referendum will have two questions, reports NewAmericaMedia: “Voters will be asked if they want to change the island’s status or keep it as a U.S. commonwealth. They will also be asked to choose from three options: statehood, independence or sovereign free association.”

Romney will be in Florida on Friday and Gingrich is sending as his plenipotentiary  Kathy Gingrich Lubbers, to lobby on his behalf. She, at least, speaks Spanish, but Gingrich is so far behind that it’s not likely to matter at this point.

Image from Vocero.com

Comments are off for this post