Language in America - Puerto Rican Statehood

Introduction

Current Issues
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The End of Bilingual Education?
..........Voters Reject Bilingual Education
..........What Is Bilingual Education?
..........How Bilingual Education Has Failed
..........Federal Action"
..........Alternatives to Failed Bilingual Education
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Statehood for Puerto Rico?
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Bilingual Ballots
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English and Citizenship
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The Fragmentation of Canada
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Voter Support
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English As The Official Language
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History of English As America's Common Language

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Another continuing English-language issue is whether Puerto Rico, a self-governing territory, should become a State. Puerto Ricans have been citizens of the United States since 1917. 48 U.S.C. 734. Yet more than two-thirds of the island’s inhabitants do not speak English. Source: Karl Ross, "Puerto Rico Law Embraces English," The Washington Post, January 30, 1993, P. A4

In 1998, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 856, a bill to make Puerto Rico a State. Proponents of Statehood spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, pollsters and public relations firms to promote passage, yet the surprisingly close vote was 209 in favor and 208 against. The one-vote margin blocked Senate consideration of similar legislation.

In December 1998, the pro-Statehood government of Puerto Rico held another voter plebiscite on statehood. Puerto Rico’s voters rejected statehood. This is the third rejection of statehood in the last seven years.

In January 2000, President Clinton proposed a fourth statehood vote in Puerto Rico.

Excerpts From "The United States: Ethnocentric or Pluralistic?" by Juan Garcia-Passalacqua, The Washington Post, June 7, 1996

"Will Congress, in defining the road toward statehood, demand that English be the official language of Puerto Rico?

"Every member of Congress must understand that Puerto Ricans are a people, a nationality, totally distinct from Americans. Our native language is Spanish. Official figures filed in Congress during 1989-1991 hearings on the status issue prove that 83 percent of island residents do not speak or understand English. The bill in effect offers a Hispanic state."

Excerpts From "Equal Partners, Common Bonds," by Cong. Gerald Solomon and Toby Roth,

The Washington Post, July 4, 1996

"Juan Garcia-Passalacqua argues that if Puerto Rico becomes a state, its language would have to be Spanish. We disagree. We believe that, like the 50 states that preceded it into the Union, a state of Puerto Rico would have to be prepared to become an equal partner in the United States. One of these conditions would involve adopting the English language. If Puerto Rico chooses to become our 51st state, its language would have to be English.

"Both of our congressional districts are close to the border with Canada, where Quebec has edged ever closer to separation. That country’s near breakup this past year over linguistic and cultural differences left us with a profound impression of the fragility of nations. If a nation that is so similar to our own can come so close to unraveling, can we afford to take our own national unity for granted any longer?"

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