The new Puerto Rico Status Act, a compromise bill combining parts of the two Puerto Rico Status bills previously introduced in Congress, offers three status options: statehood, independence, and free association. U.S. citizenship in an independent Puerto Rico will not be a possibility for the future, though U.S. citizens may be able to keep their current U.S. citizenship for their lifetimes. U.S. citizenship under free association is not guaranteed. What about U.S. citizenship under statehood?
This option includes no uncertainty. The draft bill puts it simply and clearly:
“U.S. citizenship of those born in Puerto Rico is recognized, protected, and secured under the U.S. Constitution in the same way such citizenship is for all U.S. citizens born in the other States.”
Just like people born in every state, people born in the state of Puerto Rico will be U.S. citizens from birth. Their citizenship will be permanent under the U.S. constitution.
Whether they live in another state when Puerto Rico is admitted to the union, or live in Puerto Rico at the time, they will be secure in their citizenship.
Statehood is the only option that provides a guarantee of U.S. citizenship for people born in Puerto Rico.
If Puerto Rico continues as a territory, U.S. citizenship would probably continue, but it is not guaranteed.
This is not a statehood claim. History.com, a neutral source, says it like this:
“On March 2, 1917, Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act, under which Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory and Puerto Ricans were granted statutory citizenship, meaning that citizenship was granted by an act of Congress and not by the Constitution (thus it was not guaranteed by the Constitution).”
The Britannica.com says this:
“Yet, despite the fact that Congress anchored the birthright citizenship legislation for Puerto Rico on the 14th Amendment, the prevailing consensus among scholars, lawmakers and policymakers is that Puerto Ricans are not entitled to a constitutional or 14th Amendment citizenship status.”
Zocalo has a very thorough historical discussion of territorial citizenship. The author baldly says that it is a “second-class” citizenship.:
“Citizens residing in the first floor—the mainland—enjoy the full legal and political rights of membership in the U.S. political community, whereas citizens residing in the basement—or Puerto Rico—live with a second-class status determined by the laws and policies Congress and the Supreme Court extend to the island.”
Puerto Rico will become a state on an equal footing with all the current states. There will be no difference between the U.S. citizenship of people born in Puerto Rico and people born in any other state.
This is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution will apply fully to people born in Puerto Rico. This is what the 14th amendment says about citizenship:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. There is no uncertainty about this.
We have to emphasize this because there is a false claim that statehood could have unforeseen negative consequences, that it is uncertain, and that we need more information on how it would really work. That’s simply not true.
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