Santorum To Puerto Ricans: Speak English Already!

Well, I guess Rick Santorum isn’t really counting on winning that Puerto Rico Primary on Sunday:

(Reuters) – Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told Puerto Ricans on Wednesday they would have to make English their primary language if they want to pursue U.S. statehood, a statement at odds with the U.S. Constitution.

Santorum traveled to the U.S. territory to campaign ahead of the island’s Republican primary election scheduled for Sunday, where he, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are vying for 20 delegates.

Puerto Ricans, who recognize both English and Spanish as their official languages, are scheduled to vote in November on a referendum to decide whether they want to pursue statehood or remain a self-governing U.S. commonwealth.

In an interview with El Vocero newspaper, Santorum said he supported Puerto Ricans’ right to self-determination regarding the island’s political status.

“We need to work together and determine what type of relationship we want to develop,” he told the newspaper.

But Santorum said he did not support a state in which English was not the primary language.

“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.”

However, the U.S. Constitution does not designate an official language, nor is there a requirement that a territory adopt English as its primary language in order to become a state.

Now, to be fair, one can make an argument that allowing a state into the union where the primary language is something other than English could be problematic but, this just strikes me as dumb on so many levels. For one thing, many Puerto Ricans, especially those that travel between the island and the mainland already do speak English or at least functionally literate enough in it to be able to communicate. For another, the position he takes is completely opposed to that taken by Republicans in Puerto Rico:

Santorum’s statement may fall flat with Puerto Rican Republicans, who have always argued that issues of language and culture should be controlled by state governments and not the federal government.

It also could alienate the 4.2 million Puerto Ricans who live on the U.S. mainland, including nearly 1 million in presidential swing-state Florida.

As I’ve already noted, Mitt Romney has already received the endorsement of Puerto Rico’s Governor Luis Fortuno and will be spending a good part of the weekend on the island campaigning. After a comment like this from Santorum, he may not have much to worry about.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rob in CT says:

    But don’t you see, Doug? Since hispanic people are born with their very DNA stamped “vote Dem,” there is no point in GOP politicians bothering to, like, not go out of their way to offend them… or bother to double-check the constitutionality of their statements.

  2. Anderson says:

    So, just to recap Santorum’s positions:

    — availability of contraception and abortion should be up to the states;

    — but no state should have anything but English as its official language.

  3. But remember, they only hate illegal immigrants! No no no, there’s not some sort of generalized bias against hispanics, that would be crazy talk!

  4. Pug says:

    Those Republicans really know how to court that Latino vote, don’t they?

    All have to do is say “Marco Rubio” real loud and those dummies will come running to vote GOP.

    Just like they got the women with Sarah Palin last time.

  5. PogueMahone says:

    This isn’t a message to Puerto Ricans. This is a message to “everyone else.”

  6. Tlaloc says:

    But don’t you see, Doug? Since hispanic people are born with their very DNA stamped “vote Dem,” there is no point in GOP politicians bothering to, like, not go out of their way to offend them… or bother to double-check the constitutionality of their statements.

    an example of the magic thinking concept I mentioned some weeks ago.

  7. J-Dub says:

    “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.”

    Could he really believe there is such a law? His ignorance is dumbfounding.

  8. JohnMcC says:

    It would be fascinating to see the Constitution that exists in the minds of so-called-conservatives, wouldn’t it? One could lay the actual document out beside the imagined one and kind of do textual analysis.

  9. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Ah, the Internet. Is there any topic on which it has a clue?

    First off, the Reuters reporter who wrote that article needs a remedial course in the law. When one document doesn’t say that something is required that doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t required. Hello, anyone home? Congress passes enabling statutes in connection with applications for admission to statehood. That’s under the express authority of the Constitution. Throughout U.S. history there have been language and other similar requirements for admission to the Union.

    Louisiana was required in connection with its enabling act to have English as its language with respect to its promulgated laws and judicial decisions. The reasons for that were and should still be obvious. That was a long-term French possession. The U.S. didn’t wish to require translators to know what was going on in the Louisana legislature.

    In the case of Hawaii both English and native Hawaiian were granted official language status, but government functions there must be conducted in English. That was a condition of their admission to the Union. Various other states, e.g., Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, etc., had language mandates included within their enabling statutes too.

    Obviously at face value this politically is a tone deaf thing for Santorum to have said. Then again, who knows what Santorum’s full statement was or the full context in which it was given. This is a Reuters article. They have an agenda. Duh.

    Speaking of which, nice headline to the blog. Shouldn’t it have said: “Santorum to Puerto Ricans: To be admitted as a state to the U.S. the official language of Puerto Rico should be English”? Wouldn’t that have been a little more fair? Less in the way of projection too.

    Speaking of projection, it’s amusing to read blog comments on topics that either directly or tangentially relate to Republicans and to the Latino vote. Democrats viciously filibustered Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Granted, a large percentage of blog commenters at that point still were in high school, or even in middle school, but it doesn’t change the fact that it happened and yet nobody seems to know or to care about it. Why isn’t that topic ever discussed on the Internet?

    Mel Martinez. Alberto Gonzales. Miguel Estrada. Bill Flores. Francisco Canseco. Mario Diaz-Balart. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. David Rivera. Devin Nunes. Brian Sandoval. Susana Martinez. Collectively they’re like the invisible political caucus. As far as the left is concered they don’t exist and never have existed, unless of course there are actions or statements of theirs against which the left wishes to throw darts.

    Lastly, getting back to pure politics, this really is a moot point. Romney was in any event going to win Puerto Rico. Everybody knows that. These comments by Santorum, along with the biased and agenda-driven ways in which they’ll be reported, are rain drops onto a flood. The outcome there is preordained. Why the attention to it?

  10. David M says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Mel Martinez. Alberto Gonzales. Miguel Estrada. Bill Flores. Francisco Canseco. Mario Diaz-Balart. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. David Rivera. Devin Nunes. Brian Sandoval. Susana Martinez

    I’m not sure how I’m supposed to see that list, as the inclusion of Alberto Gonzales would seem to indicate that’s a list of GOP hacks unfit for public office. If that’s not what you meant, you should probably remove his name, as nobody wants to be on any other lists that might include Gonzales.

  11. jpe says:

    I have no idea why we have any affiliation w/ them at all. They’re a black hole of money and we get nothing from them in exchange. We should cut ’em loose.

  12. Trumwill says:

    I know it’s sacrilege to say this because Santorum said it, but no, we should not grant statehood to a territory where English is not the primary language. (Nor, for that matter, should we have another state so far away.) Such a requirement is not in the constitution, but it is not unconstitutional.

    I am tickled if this view apparently cannot stem from something other than animus towards Hispanics or Puerto Rico.

  13. Herb says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: @Tsar Nicholas:

    “Collectively they’re like the invisible political caucus. As far as the left is concered they don’t exist “

    Why do you think the left is going to support these righties? Because they have Hispanic last names? Does it make us hypocrites because we’re supposed to love Hispanics?

    Also….Bill Flores is as Hispanic as I am Cherokee and Devin Nunes is of Portuguese descent.

    Second also, not a single person in your list is Puerto Rican. They’re Cubans and Mexicans mostly (and Susanna Martinez and Alberto Gonzalez have already acknowledged their ancestors came to the US illegally). What about Sonia Sotomayor?

  14. “Dumb” Doug?

    I think you might be one of the few people to take this at face value. Of course he wasn’t really addressing Puerto Ricans, when he spoke to Puerto Ricans.

    It was a calculated appeal to his base.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    Less in the way of projection too.

    Speaking of projection, it’s amusing to read blog comments on topics that either directly or tangentially relate to Republicans and to the Latino vote.

    This is even more amusing coming from this blog’s King of Projection…I wonder if he even realizes the irony?

    Mel Martinez. Alberto Gonzales. Miguel Estrada. Bill Flores. Francisco Canseco. Mario Diaz-Balart. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. David Rivera. Devin Nunes. Brian Sandoval. Susana Martinez. Collectively they’re like the invisible political caucus. As far as the left is concered they don’t exist and never have existed, unless of course there are actions or statements of theirs against which the left wishes to throw darts.

    Oh, these people certainly do exist, but their existence doesn’t mean that the GOP has any kind of friendly relationship with the Hispanic population as a whole…you see, a few tokens doesn’t make up for the outright hostility that many other Republicans have shown towards Hispanics…

  16. Dave_L says:

    @Rob in CT:

    LOL, P.R. has a republican goiernor and GOP led (their version of it) state controlled legislature and the governor there endorse Mittens.

  17. Ben Wolf says:

    @Trumwill:

    I know it’s sacrilege to say this because Santorum said it, but no, we should not grant statehood to a territory where English is not the primary language.

    Why?

  18. Trumwill says:

    Multiple primary languages are bad for overall cohesion. One should not have to worry about not being able to speak to their fellow countrymen within their own country.

    (This is one thing that those English Should Be Our Official National Language people say, but I think as it stands now it’s not really a problem. In large part because the immigrants that come here will, within a generation or two, be speaking English. I don’t believe this is true of Puerto Rico.)

  19. PogueMahone says:

    @jpe: Oh, for a moment there I thought you were talking about Alabama or Mississippi or a handful of other red states.

  20. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Trumwill: You’ve been living in the mountains too long. You need to come back and see what wonders civilization hath wrought.

  21. Trumwill says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: I’ve lived in five states over the last ten years, including three major metropolitan areas. I get multiculturalism. But language is different. Multilingualism is fantastic, provided that we all have one in common.

  22. krissmith777 says:

    @Trumwill:

    The Constitution gives requirments for statehood….having an official language is not one of them. So even if Puerto Rico threw out English for Spanish, if they want to have statehood, they should have it.

  23. Trumwill says:

    @krissmith777: One of those requirements is congressional approval, and whether a territory where there is a language barrier with most of the rest of the country is subject to congressional discretion. The Constitution did not specify that anti-polygamy law must be built into the proposed state Constitution, but they required it of Utah. We have no duty to grant statehood to any territory that wants it.

  24. Anderson says:

    Multiple primary languages are bad for overall cohesion. One should not have to worry about not being able to speak to their fellow countrymen within their own country.

    Hence the bloody battleground of fratricidal war that is Switzerland.

  25. Trumwill says:

    @Anderson: It’s sure worked out for Belgium, hasn’t it? Of course, Belgium and the US are not analogous. But neither are the US and Switzerland. Small countries can get away with a lot more than large countries. America has enough cohesion problems as it is. Throwing in a non-contiguous state that speaks an entirely differently language is not helpful. I’m not suggesting it will lead to civil war, but I do not believe it will be good for the people as a whole.

  26. grumpy realist says:

    @Trumwill: It seems to me that we’ve got more problems between the red states and the blue states than we would have between a state with two official languages, one of them being English, and the rest of the U.S.

    Heck, the way things are going, it would be a damn fine thing if the southern states just finally admitted to reality and added Spanish as being one of the official languages of the state. They’re having to deal with a spanish-speaking population anyway…

    If the US really wanted to put up a barrier to illegal immigration from the south, it would make the official language of the US to be Chinese.

  27. Franklin says:

    OK, so first off, as others have noted, Santorum wasn’t really directing this at Puerto Ricans. It was a dog whistle of sorts.

    Second, I think Tsar Nicholas and Trumwill are technically correct about the legalities. However, the arguments put forth for the requirement have not swayed me, YET. I think of myself as quite multicultural, and get along quite well with neighbors who could hardly be said to speak English fluently. I think the argument to put forth here is something about the ability to get jobs and be able to perform them (which often includes … communication).

  28. Gromitt Gunn says:

    As long as they are translating their laws into English and all government forms and filings are available in English, as well as whatever other languages they choose, I don’t see any problem with PR being a state. They’re a heck of a lot closer to Florida than Hawai’i is to California, and about the same flight distance as Seattle to Juneau.

  29. WR says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “Democrats viciously filibustered Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Granted, a large percentage of blog commenters at that point still were in high school, or even in middle school, but it doesn’t change the fact that it happened and yet nobody seems to know or to care about it. Why isn’t that topic ever discussed on the Internet?”

    Because Estrada was just another corrupt creep from the Bush administration. Why should anyone give a damn about him? Or are you suggesting that Latinos are required to support any Latino politician, no matter how much he opposes everything they believe in?

  30. Ben Wolf says:

    @Trumwill: We already live with the Puerto Ricans. What will change if they become a state? How will the current situation become impossible because they get representatives in Congress?

  31. Unbiased opinion says:

    Im a puerto rican woman born and raised on the mainland. I have previously voted both republican and democrat. many of us have. Unfortunately, i do NOT have any reason to vote for any of the GOP candidates because they do not share my views. They are all extreme right wing terrorists hellbent on destroying this country with their nonsense. put up guilliani or bloomberg for president and ill change my vote. stay with this crop of insanity, and obama has my vote.

  32. Maggie says:

    @J-Dub:
    JPE…PR’s have been contributing to the miltary just to say few..we love freedom and that ideal should be protected not knocked around. P.R.is almost a bi-lingual COMMONWEALTH….like Florida, California, Texas, to mention a few…the ones here in the mainland were totally bi-lingual since before you even knew that PR was a territory of the US, Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens in 1917…And they are not all Democrats…closed minded people cannot see beyond their nose…he most be related to Palin. The sad thing is that these so called Candidates are the pick of the litter of STUPID people who want to govern our country…with all the multilanguage people around the world that we deal with on a daily bases, wonder if they look at us and our democracy and wonder what in the world kind of mungles are these? People that throw stones at their own citizens…oops., I forgot, the country that because of it’s diversity of people and respect for it’s differences is the greatest country in the world! How can we expect these so called canidates to logically govern safely and fairly when dealing with non English speaking people in an international level? God help us!!!

  33. Maggie says:

    @Franklin:

    A dog whistle of sorts…who are the dogs?

  34. An Interested Party says:

    A dog whistle of sorts…who are the dogs?

    The Republican base, particularly those who are xenophobic and anti-Hispanic…

  35. jpe says:

    @ Pogue: indeed. And the last thing we need is even more poor rednecks that barely speak English.

  36. Trumwill says:

    @grumpy realist: There is the expectation that, like their immigrant predecessors, will speak English in a generation or two. If I believed that the same was true of Puerto Rico, I’d withdraw my objection. Regarding the red/blue state divide, a higher percentage of (voting) Wyomingans (32%) voted for Obama than Puerto Ricans (28%) who speak English “very well” according to the 2000 Census. (If you are wondering, 80% of Californians and 86% of Texans meet that threshold.) The issues in the southwest pale in comparison to this. And, in a generation or two, things should be different among Mexican-Americans unless something has gone wrong (vindicating the border hawks who are poo-pooed for saying that they won’t learn English).

    @Franklin: I absolutely believe that the economic prospects of Puerto Rico would improve immensely if they geared towards English. But I don’t use that particular argument because they don’t seem to have embraced it (or worse, they can’t do anything about it).

    @Ben Wolf: This is about more than voting rights. If that’s all this were about, the Puerto Ricans would have voted for statehood a long time ago (and balloting efforts wouldn’t continually need to be redesigned to try to get a statehood result). This isn’t like DC statehood proposals, which are primarily about electoral representation. There’s nothing impossible about it, but full integration (properly done) would be a significant undertaking: culturally and economically. As it stands, they remain a quasi-separate entity, even if under our umbrella. That changes with statehood. Both for them, and for us.

  37. Ben Wolf says:

    @Trumwill: No, I’m not referencing voting rights. Puerto Rico has been a part of the United States for over one hundred years, they just don’t get representation. Cultural interaction would remain unchanged with statehood, so how is their current status as a territory tenable but statehood somehow would result in things falling apart?

  38. Trumwill says:

    @Ben Wolf: Everything doesn’t have to “fall apart” for something to be a bad idea. The negatives just have to outweigh the positives.

    The current arrangement is not really optimal for either side. However, Puerto Rico can’t afford to go it alone, its citizens are ambivalent about becoming a state, and we don’t have the gumption or gall (or maybe legal ability) to cut them loose and it’s not (in my view) in our best interest to grant them statehood with the language barrier.

    And to repeat myself (because “they just don’t get representation” makes it seem like that’s the only relevant difference), current state of affairs is not virtual-statehood-minus-representation. It’s a different classification, wherein they do not pay federal income taxes, have their own citizenship (in addition to US citizenship), are not subject to some federal laws (minimum wage, for example), are not due equal Medicaid compensation, cannot vote, and get their own representation or are considered a “nation” in numerous international statistics and competitions. Honestly, I think they should actually have more autonomy when it comes to federal laws, and that we should be moving in that direction. Though they are under our umbrella, in terms of defense and (much) law, they are generally thought of as Puerto Ricans first and Americans second. Statehood is, in my view, moving in the wrong direction *unless* they will have the ability to integrate as the other states have. That’s a much tougher sell when less than a third of them fluently speak our language.

    The most compelling arguments for statehood are (a) that they would actually broadly learn English and (b) that we simply owe it to them. I don’t think (a) is the case without a much more concerted effort (geographic isolation will make it more difficult) and I am just not sold on (b) (I believe that Puerto Ricans have, on the whole, benefited from their relationship with us – though I might give it more weight if it were something that they were insistent on, rather than ambivalent about). Our mutual history is (probably) enough for me to overlook the distance thing, but not (presently) the language thing.

    * – All references to Puerto Ricans refer to Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico, the place we would be making a state. Puerto Ricans on the mainland (or Hawaii) fall into a separate category, as residents of their state with the privileges thereof. I don’t worry about them for the same reason I don’t worry too much about Mexican-American immigrants: Given a couple generations, I believe they will learn English, if they don’t come over already knowing it.

  39. Ben Wolf says:

    @Trumwill: There were pletny of people in Texa, New Mexico, Arizona and California who didn’t speak english and didn’t particularly wish to be part of the United States, but we did it anyway. And whether Pureto Rico becomes subject to the minimum wage isn’t what we’re discussing. The issue at hand is that their language makes them unsuitsble to become a state, and as yet I don’t see much evidence in support od that contention. In the 21st Century, when you can put an electronic translator in your pocket, language simply isn’t the barrier it once was.

  40. Trumwill says:

    There are a few differences:

    A) I don’t think it was the case that less in the southwest that than a third of the state’s population spoke English by the time statehood was achieved. English was, at the least, the primary language. (Please, correct me if I am wrong here.)

    B) The isolating geography makes a difference, in my view, making it less likely that there will be the infusion of outsiders that have occurred in other states. (I haven’t mentioned it here, but I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I would object less if it were a nearby state where there would be a lot more people moving back and forth.)

    C) Those states did not, as far as I know, start off as states by conducting their business in a different language. (I’d even take Puerto Rico starting off in Spanish, if there were a roadmap to transitioning to English as the primary language.)

    Puerto Rico is a case unlike others. It is my hope that if statehood is achieved that it will eventually transition to English. Or that it will indeed prove not to matter. I don’t consider pocket translators a suitable replacement for the ability to freely communicate without one. It is my fear that it will matter a great deal, because, well, language barriers still do even in the age of freetranslations.com, and that we will be granting statehood to a state that culturally won’t be able to become part of the stew.

  41. merl says:

    @JohnMcC: The same with the Bible.

  42. MeMevin says:

    Amazing how stupid Santorum is. Not only did he just alienate PR, but most of the bilingual (Span & Eng) speakers in the States. I speak four languages, by choice and by wokring overseas 21 out of the last 32 years,

    My observation is that most Americans have neither the mental capacity or curiosity to communicate in something other than English. What a waste of potential problem solving ability and improvment of international relations.

    Engish is NOT the most spoken loanguage in the world and Americans need to recognize darn quickly that our survival is direclty connected with the ability to communicate in a world wide arena.

  43. emolson says:

    Since 2007, puerto ricans are predominately classified as “white “racially and more than 85% of them speak english “medium” to “well.” Spanish and English has been taught in the schools since 1900s. They are US citizens at birth since the 1800s. It is not a state and so they cannot vote but they do have voice in delegates and representation in Congress as an american colony.
    Immigration into Puerto Rico has been primarily from Spaniards and Jewish fleeing hitler. Sadly, there are very few true original full blooded left since over 100 years ago. To make a statement and not know much about this colony by any of our nominees speaks volumes on his ignorance. He is now on public record, lieing about romney getting the vote because he told them what they wanted to hear that they didn’t have to speak english to receive statehood…which is true..but they already do, on a very large scale, and both languages are taught for over 100 years..just like Hawaii. They are us citizens and have the right to their culture and languages, whatever they may be…that is a decision for the “state” knowing their residents the best and not the federal government. Rick obviously isn’t as conservative as he touts when he wants to intrude on their rights, doesn’t know what they already do and speak and nothing about who resides there, and doesn’t know much about how our laws apply to them considering their current status and policies. Since none of this is new info, (over hundred years old), he comments to them are arrogant, ignorant, stupid, and not in line with our constitutional or congressional policies. I can see why Romney got everyone’s vote…don’t you? I think rick is the one with too little experience, even in politics and the private sector, to fix the problems our country faces…his comments..on numerous occasions demand everyone to do only what he thinks is right..regardless of the majority vote..instead of doing what the people want…He professes to change things..but if no one will work with him..nothing will be done. No one will work with him if he cannot consider current laws, information, or other’s majority issues and where the federal government needs to get out and stay out. I am a conservative…but I respect all other’s and give their voice equality with mine and our government is run by what how the majority votes…not how one man votes imposed on everyone else..that is what we have with Obama. Now he is lieing stating that Romney told the people they didn’t have to speak English..I am tired of being lied too..I listened to his remarks…he never said anything of the kind..he was aware and acknowledged that they already have both languages as their languages and teach it in their schools and told them he would support, our other US citizens (since 1800s), into statehood if that is what they wanted not act like they were not us citizens and impose on them a requirement which is mute and a non-issue in light of what they have done since the 1900s. This information takes 5 minutes to research and this also shows how little Rick knows about our nation and its us citizens and how little he cares to research it before he speaks. Do the research and send a message that we are tired of the lies and manipulations..I won’t have another liar in the whitehouse…I’m sure Rick knows Romney didn’t say that to the people and is acting like a child because he didn’t get hardly any votes in the country after his ignorant remarks to the people..our people…us citizens.