The Two-Way
4:08 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Santorum: Puerto Rico Must Adopt English If It Wants Statehood

Rick Santorum waded into a controversial issue today when he gave an interview to El Vocero, one of the biggest newspapers in Puerto Rico.

The issue? The island's primary language.

The paper asked the former Pennsylvania senator if he would back Puerto Rican statehood if Spanish along with English remained its official languages.

"Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law," Santorum told the paper. "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."

Univision News reports that the language question has been long simmering. Univision points out that this is yet another issue that could put the GOP in a harsh light for the Latino electorate and could also complicate Republican politics in the state.

Univision adds:

"While both Santorum and Romney have supported Puerto Rico's right to self-determination on its status, they have faced pressure from conservative Tea Party groups to back certain pre-conditions for statehood, such as the language requirement and proof that the island will not place an undue burden on the federal budget deficit.

"But Santorum's statement in particular could put Puerto Rican statehood advocates in a pickle, including GOP-aligned Gov. Luis Fortuño, who has endorsed Romney. Fortuño's party in Puerto Rico, the New Progressive Party, is firmly pro-statehood.

"'That presents a difficult scenario for statehood applicants in Puerto Rico... who say we could gain statehood by keeping English and Spanish as the official languages,' he said."

In November, Puerto Rico is set to vote on whether it wants to fully join the United States. Congress would then have to approve Puerto Rico as the 51st state.

As for that claim from Santorum that Puerto Rico would have to meet federal laws to become a state, Reuters explains that "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."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.