Rick Santorum to Puerto Ricans:
“Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law, 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.”
Some people are gleefully pointing out that actually there is no federal law regarding English, which is correct. A Reuters article suggests that Santorum’s position is at odds with the Constitution, which is not correct*. Others are suggesting that this is a racist attempt at getting the votes of people who are all hopped up on illegal immigration.
Very little discussion has been had, so far, regarding the meat of his argument. And, once I overlook that it’s Rick Santorum and get over his incorrectness regarding English and the federal law, I think he’s more right than not. We should not grant statehood to a territory where English is not the primary language. It doesn’t matter if, as Doug Mataconis says, “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.” A majority, however, do not. This isn’t about travel to and from the mainland, but rather countrymen’s ability to communicate with one another.
I am personally not all that concerned with the number of Spanish-speaking immigrants we’ve had coming to this country over the last decade or two. My lack of concern, however, is due in good part to a confidence that they will indeed learn it. There is little reason to believe that Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico will. They’ve been teaching English as a second language for some time now, and it hasn’t taken. They already have free movement throughout the United States, but given the distance it’s not a successful enticement (I’d perhaps be more amenable to Baja California, if it were a territory, but only if shifting to English were a priority).
Without the ability to communicate freely, there is a lack of foundation to be considered a single country. Canada has the Quebec problem, and they deal with it, but there are reasons that they have that simply don’t apply to Puerto Rico and the US.
Even without the language barrier, I’m not sure how well-served we are having another far-flung state. But the language barrier presents a legitimate issue that separates it from places like Guyana.
* – Congress has a wide range of requirements it can put upon a state. They may not be able to require that everyone speak English all the time, but they can say “no statehood until you’ve made strides or demonstrate a roadmap to English primacy.” In fact, they came within just a few votes of doing just that when they authorized the referendum.