Santorum Says Puerto Rico Must Abide by Non-Existent Federal English Language Law for Statehood

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said that Puerto Ricans would have to make English their primary language if they wanted U.S. statehood, a statement not supported by the U.S. Constitution.

Santorum traveled to the U.S. territory to campaign before the island’s Republican primary election scheduled for this Sunday. At stake are 20 delegates.

Puerto Rico recognizes both English and Spanish as their official languages. The island is 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.

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

Santorum also 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.”

The U.S. Constitution does not specify any official language, nor is there any requirement that a territory recognize English as its primary language in order to become a state.

Some states, including heavily Hispanic Florida, have passed their own laws declaring English the official language but nothing has passed on a federal level.

Puerto Rico has about 4 million people and its population can vote in primaries but not presidential elections.

Santorum also said that he does not support “at this time” allowing residents in territories like Puerto Rico to vote for president, although he said he was open to analyzing alternatives, such as allowing their votes to count in the popular vote but not in the Electoral College.

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