A prominent organization in Puerto Rico is supporting permanent union and equal rights of U.S. citizenship for Americans by asking the U.S. Congress to reclassify the territory’s political status.
The Puerto Rico-USA Foundation wants the U.S. national legislative branch to exercise its power over territories and change the territory’s current designation as “unincorporated” to “incorporated” status instead.
The Puerto Rico-USA Foundation petition is entitled “Petition to the Congress of the United States to Certify with a Joint Resolution Puerto Rico as an Incorporated Territory of the United States.”
Under current federal territorial law “unincorporated” status means the territory has not been granted permanent union under the U.S. Constitution. Instead of equal rights of U.S. citizenship, the fundamental constitutional rights of citizens in an unincorporated territory are as determined by Congress and the courts.
Legally, “incorporation” constitutes a mutual federal territorial commitment to admission as a state in the future. Historically, incorporation means provisions of the U.S. Constitution applied in the territory, except for voting rights in federal government elections for consent of the governed through full and equal representation in Congress and Electoral College .
Only citizens of States are eligible under Art. I and Art. II of the U.S. Constitution to vote in federal elections for full and equal representation in the national political process. Incorporation does not rectify that inequality. Only statehood delivers full equality in America.
If Congress were to adopt a joint resolution declaring Puerto Rico an incorporated territory, at least as to Puerto Rico that would superseded and nullify the 1922 case of Balzac v. Puerto Rico. That U.S. Supreme Court ruling denied incorporation status to Puerto Rico after Congress granted U.S. citizenship by in Puerto Rico federal territorial law statute.
Before the Balzac case, unincorporated territory status applied only to territories with non-citizen populations deemed to be under the national protection of the U.S. until Congress decided to grant citizenship and incorporation leading to statehood (e.g. Alaska and Hawaii).
The alternative was for Congress to deny citizenship as part of a policy leading to independence and nationhood. This was the case with U.S. Territory of the Pacific Islands: Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands.
PR-USA’s petition argues for replacement of birthright citizenship in Puerto Rico under federal territorial law with an express conferral of statutory birthright citizenship in 1941, as provided under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, gave Americans born in Puerto Rico a constitutional status equivalent to acquisition of citizenship at birth in a state or incorporated territory.
However, the national and state citizenship clause in Section 1 of the First Amendment applies on in states and territories incorporated into the union under he U.S. Constitution. All citizenship conferred by statute for people who do not acquire it by birth in a state or incorporated territory is just that – statutory, and as such subject to conditions prescribed by Congress before or even after acquisition, as well as amendment or repeal by Congress.
Thus, incorporation is permanent union, and incorporation secures U.S. citizenship. Equality of national and State citizenship rights are acquired only with statehood.