|OFFICIAL ENGLISH REQUIREMENT FOR PUERTO RICO
Just like Rick Santorum, Congress and the White House have brainstormed about the English language requirement for Puerto Rico if the island becomes the 51st State.
A 2011 Congressional report (CRS) shows how Congress and Administrations have favored official English language requirement for Puerto Rico if voters there chose statehood. Interestingly, the report uses these expressions: “federal official language requirements would apply to Puerto Rico,” “there is precedent for a language requirement,” “official English language requirements would have applied in Puerto Rico,” etc.
Here are some highlights of the CRS report pertaining to the language requirement for statehood:
OBAMA & BUSH ADMINISTRATION
President 2011 Task Force Report on Puerto Rico’s Status
(Released by President Obama in March 2011)
(CRS, page 23)
In March 2011, the Obama Administration task force issued its first report…On status specifically, the task force recommended the following.
If Puerto Rico were admitted as a state, the task force found that English would need to play “a central role in the daily life of the Island.”
Source: PDF from Obama’s White House
President 20007 Task Force Report on Puerto Rico’s Status
(Released by President Bush in December 2007)
The provisions of the Federal law on the use of the English language in the agencies and courts of the Federal Government in the fifty states of the Union shall apply equally in the State of Puerto Rico, as at present states.”
or at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/documents/2007-report-by-the-president-task-force-on-puerto-rico-status.pdf
BILLS IN CONGRESS
Bill H.R. 2499 in 111th Congress (2009-2010)
(CRS, page 5)
On April 29, 2010, the House approved an amended version of H.R. 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010, by a final vote of 223-169…. The Puerto Rico State Elections Commission would have also, according to an amendment adopted on the floor of the House, notified voters that under continuation of the current status or statehood, federal “official language requirements” would apply to Puerto Rico and throughout the United States. The Commission also would be required to notify voters that it is the sense of Congress that the teaching of English be promoted in public schools in Puerto Rico.
[Source: Rep. Dan Burton, “Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010,” House Debate, Congressional Record, vol. 156 (April 29, 2010), p. H3045.] [HR 2499]
Bill H.R. 856 in 105th Congress (1997-1998)
(CRS, pages 32, 42, 55)
During the 1998 House debate on H.R. 856, an amendment was adopted that would have established an English language education requirement if Puerto Rico were admitted as a state.
[Source: Remarks in the House, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 144, March 4, 1998, pp. H802-H812. An amendment designating Spanish as the official language of Puerto Rico was rejected during the same debate.] [HR 856]
There is precedent for a language requirement to be attached to a statehood proposal. The admission of three states—Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona—was contingent upon such a requirement.
[Source: Joseph E. Fallon, “Federal Policy and U.S. Territories: The Political Restructuring of the United States of America,” Pacific Affairs, vol. 64, spring 1991, p. 34.]
Similar provision to H.R. 3024, with official English language requirement specified. […] Stated as policy that students in schools should achieve English proficiency by age 10. Under statehood, official English language requirements would have applied in Puerto Rico as in all states. Transition plan to statehood would have had to include promotion of English.
H.R. 856, as approved by the House, included an English language provision, along with the expectation (“it is anticipated”) that English would be the “official language of the federal government in Puerto Rico” to the extent required by law throughout the United States.
Bill H.R. 3024 in 104th Congress (1995-1996)
(CRS, page 42)
Provision for: guaranteed constitutional rights, permanent union, reserved powers, responsibility for payment of taxes, national representation and voting rights, and application of language requirement similar to that applied in other states. […] Under statehood, would have followed the language requirements “as in the several states.” [HR 3024]
Bill S. 712 in 101st Congress (1989-1990)
(CRS, page 47)
The statehood provision of S. 712 (Title II) included a self-executing provision; recognized the constitution adopted in 1952 as the constitution (future) of the state; retained existing federal land holdings (with future conveyances allowed); recognized both Spanish and English as official languages (with government proceedings conducted in English); and provided for the election of presidential electors and congressional representatives, as well as the establishment of a commission to identify U.S. laws not applicable to Puerto Rico, among other provisions. […]
Issues of Debate on S. 712. The debate on S. 712 resulted in the discussion of many facets of the status debate. Hearings were held by three committees to obtain public comments, the viewpoints of Administration officials, and statements from political leaders in Puerto Rico.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the primary committee of jurisdiction, held eight days of hearings on S. 712.129 During these hearings, Senators and witnesses discussed a range of issues raised by the status debate, including the following: the referendum process (including campaign financing, voting rights of mainland Puerto Ricans, and ballot components); continuation of citizenship rights; language requirements; constitutional provisions; international relations; trade; transition requirements (including modifying standing tax benefits and continued federal aid); transfer of historic and other property; financial and economic development matters; judiciary concerns (including official language for court proceedings, appointment of judges, and jurisdiction); fisheries and mineral rights; national defense and security; and other matters.
(CRS, page 33)
If the political status of Puerto Rico changes, Congress might elect to establish a transition period during which certain elements are phased into place. Policy matters previously included in such transition periods include, for statehood: gradual modification of tax liability, language requirements, impact of representation on Congress, and others. If Puerto Rico gains independence, Congress might elect to consider a period of time in which federal financial assistance is provided, and strategic defense agreements are reached, among other matters.
Congress has wide jurisdiction over U.S. territory (e.g. Puerto Rico)
(CRS, page 12)
Puerto Rico, although styled a “commonwealth,” is a territory of the United States and is subject to Congress under the Territorial Clause of the U. S. Constitution.
“The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.”
[Source: U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 3, cl. 2.]