On March 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the law that gave Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship. This citizenship, which is given to everyone born in Puerto Rico, is statuatory citizenship, which means that it was granted by Congress rather than by the constitution.

This means that it is not permanent or guaranteed. Just like the power to allow municipalities to use chapter 9 bankruptcy to restructure debt, it can be taken away.

There is no reason to think that Congress plans to repeal the law that made the people of Puerto Rico citizens, as long as Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. Once Puerto Rico becomes a state, U.S. citizenship would be guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, and Puerto Rican citizens of the U.S. could not lose their citizenship.

However, a choice to become independent, with or without free association, would almost certainly mean the end of U.S. citizenship.

First, history shows that former territories which become independent, such as the Philippines, do not have U.S. citizenship for their residents. Citizens of the Philippines are not citizens of the United States. It’s that simple. This is true of the citizens of countries in free association with the U.S., too. The United States doesn’t give U.S. citizenship to citizens of other nations.

Second, this question has already been answered by the Department of Justice. In 1991, at hearing held by the U.S. Senate on a proposed status referendum law for Puerto Rico, then Secretary of Justice Richard Thornburgh said that if Puerto Rico became independent, residents would have to choose between U.S. citizenship and citizenship in the new country.

Some political leaders in Puerto Rico say they will demand continued U.S. citizenship as a condition of free association or independence from the United States, but agreements between sovereign nations cannot be predicted in this way. If the United States refuses, as the evidence suggests she will, the sovereign nation of Puerto Rico could not go back to being a territory or ask to become a state. Those options would be off the table by that time.

The only way to guarantee U.S. citizenship for the people of Puerto Rico is statehood. #PR51 Click To Tweet



4 Responses

  1. Who cares about U.S. citizenship. If you value that more than having your own Puerto Rican citizenship in your independent country of Puerto Rico, you live a sad life.

    • You are probably a communist that wants to see Puerto Rico just like every single Spanish speaking country in the hole and full of corruption with its people starving and killing each other for a plate of food I hope that PR does become the 51st state

    SUM: According to legal experts: Types-Sources of US Citizenship are:
    • Birthright Citizenship-“jus soli” (right of soil)—born in the US-in a State-per the 14th Amendment…
    • Acquired Citizenship– acquiring citizenship from US Citizen parents… (per 8 USC Code)
    • Naturalization Citizenship—process through which immigrants from other countries can also become citizens if they wish to… (per 14th Amendment) PLUS-
    • Statutory US Citizenship-per the US Territorial Clause (1789); Insular Cases (1901-1925+) –Allows for the US Congress to Legislate a non-permanent statutory US Citizenship (by Law-Code)…
    *The source for statutory US Citizenship is the Territorial Clause, and the racist Insular Cases–that wrongly stated the US Constitution does not fully apply to so called “unincorporated” US Territories such as Puerto Rico (which is “more foreign than domestic, belongs to, but, is not part of the US–Soil”)…
    *Remember Puerto Rico is in “legal Limbo” as “unincorporated”, it belongs to the US, but, it’s not another Country; the “Insular Cases” allow the US Constitution to not be fully applied to Puerto Rico…
    *8 USC Code §1402-is only for Persons born in Puerto Rico (doesn’t mention “birthright” Citizenship…)
    **US Congress can amend or revoke any Laws-Codes it makes… IAW the US Constitution…

    Statutory US Citizenship is mainly governed by the old US Constitution’s Territory Clause (1787) that states: “US Congress shall have the power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the Territory and other Property belonging to the US…” And the “Insular Cases” (1901-1925 + based on racism and discrimination) that state (not in the US Constitution)—“Puerto Rico is an “unincorporated” US Territory that is more foreign than domestic, belongs to, but, is not part of the United States”. (Other US Territories before Puerto Rico were NOT treated this way.)

    Statutory US Citizenship isn’t fully protected by the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment (1868), according to some US Supreme Court decisions. It states: “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…” The Amendment does not mention “unincorporated” US Territories which incongruently are not considered part or soil of the US…

    There is no Constitutional Article, Law or Supreme Court Decision that mentions statutory US Citizens have a permanent US Citizenship… On the contrary, below are some US Supreme Court Decisions, Presidential and Congressional Reports; a US Attorney General, Federal Judges and Others that content the US Constitution does not fully apply to statutory US Citizens or an “unincorporated” US Territory.
    Thus, today, millions of statutory US Citizens, can be “born” US Citizens, but, don’t have a permanent “birthright” US Citizenship (which is not mentioned in the 8th US Code for statutory US Citizens…), no matter where they reside (even in a State), because the US Congress can amend or revoke any Law or Code that a previous US Congress enacted… Also, the US Constitution’s Article 5th and Amendment 14th don’t mention suffrage (Voting Rights) for “unincorporated” Territories, but, it fully applies only to STATES…

    Besides, once, there is Independence, a Nation has its own Sovereignty and Citizenship, after which (not before) it can enter into a Pact (like Free Association) between sovereign Nations… Thus, US Laws (like the Territorial Clause, Insular Cases, &1917-Jones Act which granted a statutory US Citizenship to Puerto Ricans), will cease to be in effect, and subject to no negotiation… Remember, in our US Constitution there is no mention of “Group Dual Citizenship” in a Foreign Country…

    A Nation can’t be Sovereign with the Citizenship of another Nation! Where would the National Loyalty lie? The US Congress doesn’t have the power to grant National US Citizenship to an Independent Nation or provide US Citizens with Federal benefits in another Country, under any Pact… Thus, Puerto Rican statutory (by Law) US Citizenship will be lost, under Independence, per the below sources.

    Besides, statutory US Citizens that reside in the States have an equity interest because they can lose their statutory US Citizenship under Independence (or Free Association)… Thus, the US Congress must state in any Plebiscite– that statutory US Citizens residing in a State will not lose their US Citizenship (naturalize them under the 14th Amendment) or let them Vote because the outcome affects them… Only Statehood guarantees permanent US Citizenship!
    “En la Unión esta la Fuerza!”**
    (Dennis O. Freytes-Florida Veterans Hall of Fame; former PMS-Professor UPR…)

  3. The PR Status Act draft states that Statutory US Citizens will keep their US Citizenship and benefits for Life, under Independence-Free Association. This is at most misleading or wrong! Statutory US Citizenship, by its nature (see my other comments), is not permanent… THUS, the Plebiscite’s’ definition should be changed to:
    FIX: We Patriots PETITION our US Congress to provide Fairness-Equal Rights to all; let Puerto Ricans VOTE/ DECIDE on clearly defined Non-Territorial Options (without misinformation or standards that weren’t applied to other Territories). These only are (per US Justice Department, and other Sources) Statehood vs Independence (Without or With a PACT of Free Association)…
    • STATEHOOD MEANS: Admission to our diverse “UNION of STATES”—with OWN– STATE Identity; Constitution; Flag; Sovereignty; EQUAL/permanent US Citizenship with full rights, benefits, and responsibilities… (as other States and other US Citizens-US Veterans have).
    • INDEPENDENCE- MEANS: Puerto Rican National Sovereignty with PR Constitution & PR Citizenship; gradual loss of statutory US Citizenship, Rights, and Benefits…
    • INDEPENDENCE with PACT of Free Association- MEANS: Puerto Rican National Sovereignty with PR Constitution & PR Citizenship; gradual loss of statutory US Citizenship, Rights, and Benefits; a negotiated PACT (on Defense, Trade, Finance,…) that can be terminated by either side…
    In our UNION-each State complements; strengthen the other States—works for the Good of All!
    “En la UNIÓN está la Fuerza!”
    Only Statehood guarantees a permanent statutory US Citizenship! Thus, those with a Statutory (by Law- based on the Territorial Clause) US Citizenship (even if residing in a State)–have a stake in the fight, because they can lose their statutory US Citizenship under Independence (where the US Constitution doesn’t apply) or if the US Congress revokes the 1917 Jones Act…
    Patriots cry- “Equality for a more perfect UNION!”
    *NOTE: Puerto Rico quest for equality is not only based on the Status group question, but, more crucial is based on having equal individual Civil Rights for all. As we navigate the Puerto Rico inequality group question and fix, we have to be mindful of nonsensical Lawyer or Court “gibberish” or “double-speak” that tries to have it both ways; negate true Justice! We need to strive for the truth-facts, proper analysis, and true Justice based on the merits of the case; not unjust laws!

    –Provide your input at US House Natural Resources Committee POPVOX (must register first)-
    Puerto Rico Status Act Discussion Draft | POPVOX

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