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Rick Santorum Says Puerto Ricans Should Speak English to Become State

On Wednesday, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told residents of Puerto Rico that if they want to make Puerto Rico a state they would have to make sure English is their first language. The statement by Santorum goes against the United States Constitution. The island will be holding its republican primary on Sunday, so Santorum went there to campaign. The candidates are fighting for 20 delegates in Puerto Rico.

Residents of Puerto Rico recognize Spanish and English as their languages. The island is set to vote in November for a referendum that could determine if they should pursue statehood. If the referendum is shot down, the island would remain a U.S. commonwealth that is self-governing.

“We need to work together and determine what type of relationship we want to develop,” Santorum said. Santorum also said that he is not in favor of a state that does not practice English as the primary language.

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“Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law,” Santorum said. “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 United States Constitution does not require an official language and it does not require that a territory of the United States speak English as the primary language if it wishes to become a state in the union. Approval would be needed from Congress for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state in the union. As a side note, there have been proposals that English be named the official language in the United States but nothing has been passed by Congress. On the other hand, several states have passed laws making English their official language, with one of them being Florida.

There are close to 4 million people living in Puerto Rico, which is allowed to vote in partisan primaries but not in presidential elections. Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S. are allowed  to vote just like other U.S. citizens. The comments made by Santorum could affect the Puerto Rican vote on Sunday and the votes of the 4.2 million Puerto Ricans who live in the continental United States. There are close to one million Puerto Ricans living in Florida, which is viewed as a presidential swing state.

Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have said that Puerto Rico should decide its own future and if it wants to become a state, Romney said he would help them succeed. Romney has secured the endorsement of Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno. Fortuno is also the head of Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

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