U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans became a hot topic in Washington in 1909, eight years before Congress passed a law granting it. That year, the U.S. Department of War examined the issue and concluded that while U.S. citizenship would be well received by Puerto Ricans, similar support did not exist stateside.
By March of 1917, Congress had enacted – without much controversy – a statute granting U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans.
Now, more than a century later, Puerto Ricans value their U.S. citizenship more than ever.
Presidential Task Force: U.S. Citizenship “Extraordinarily Important”
Starting in 2005, Republican and Democratic Presidents convened a Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Political Status and issued final reports. These reports invariably noted the importance of U.S. citizenship in Puerto Rico.
In 2005, the first report of the Presidential Task Force on Puerto Rico Status was explicit that “[a]ny planning for Puerto Rican independence would need to consider citizenship.” The second report of the Presidential Task Force on Puerto Rico Status, which was released in 2007, also recognized the importance of U.S. citizenship to the people of Puerto Rico in its extensive coverage of the fate of U.S. citizenship under the possibility of independence.
It was the 2011 Presidential Task Force on Puerto Rico Status that made it abundantly clear how much U.S. citizenship is prized in Puerto Rico. “U.S. citizenship is an extraordinarily important issue for the people of Puerto Rico,” the White House report observed. “Although there are strong advocates for Independence who do not wish for continued ties to the United States, the Task Force’s engagement with Puerto Ricans demonstrated that most of them value their U.S. citizenship enormously. Any status option that could conceivably result in the loss of U.S. citizenship by current U.S. citizen residents of Puerto Rico would, it seems, be viewed with hostility by the vast majority of Puerto Ricans.”
“We Puerto Ricans Treasure our U.S. Citizenship.”
The strong sentiment in favor of keeping U.S. citizenship in Puerto Rico is very much still alive today. “We Puerto Ricans treasure our U.S. citizenship and have honored it with a quarter of a million of our men and women serving for over a century in the Armed Forces,” said Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon at a 2022 press conference on Capitol Hill commemorating the 105th anniversary of U.S. citizenship to the people of Puerto Rico. “In 2022 it is not acceptable to tell citizens of your country that if they want to be treated equally, they should move to another part of it.”