On March 2, 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act became law, granting U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans. Today, everyone born in Puerto Rico is a citizen of the United States, just as people born in the States are U.S. citizens. This day has come to be known as American Citizenship Day.
Puerto Rican U.S. citizenship is statutory, rather than constitutional. There are consequences to this distinction. Citizens living in Puerto Rico, regardless of their birthplaces, cannot vote in presidential elections and do not have full representation in Congress.
Over 100 years later, American Citizenship day was marked by a report that President Biden remarked to Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, after his State of the Union address, “If I lived in Puerto Rico, I would vote for statehood.” Biden has spoken for statehood repeatedly as vice president, presidential candidate, and president.
Gonzalez-Colon, along with Governor Pierlusi and other leaders, held a press conference in commemoration of American Citizenship Day, speaking in favor of statehood.
Other leaders speak up for statehood
Others in the federal and territorial governments also spoke in favor of statehood today.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), who represents one of the largest populations of Puerto Rican constituents in the States, tweeted “105 years ago the people of Puerto Rico obtained U.S. citizenship. They’ve made immense contributions in war & peace. A majority of Puerto Ricans have expressed support for statehood—and America should honor their choice. Statehood ensures voting rights & true equality.”
Pablo Manriquez, a correspondent for Latino Rebels, tried to get senators to commit themselves on the subject, asking Senators and tweeting their replies. Similar to President Biden, most of the Senators who had studied the issue were supportive of whatever is the will of the Puerto Rican people, including statehood.
Manriquez did not delve into how elusive voter dreams for impossible arrangements of, for example, independence with U.S. citizenship might decrease support for statehood.
Senator Gregorio Matias, of the Puerto Rico Senate, was among the Puerto Rican territorial leaders tweeting about statehood ahead of American Citizenship Day.
Puerto Rico has voted for statehood three times since 2012, in each of the referenda on political status held in the 21st century. Congress is currently considering two bills on the status of Puerto Rico.