Recent focus by Congress on Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory has brought up concerns about the fate of some of Puerto Rico’s popular attributes such as U.S. citizenship, the Puerto Rican Olympic team, and the use of Spanish on the island.
A sharp exchange between Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) included Velazquez’s statement that the “bare minimum” the United States owes Puerto Rico after more than a century of colonial oppression is assurance of continued citizenship.
Westerman retorted that nobody was “talking about taking away citizenship.” However, it is clear that Congress would have that option if Puerto Rico’s territorial status ends and Puerto Rico does not become a state.
The State Department has repeatedly spoken on this question. In a hearing on a Puerto Rico status bill in 1997, Ambassador Fred M. Zeder II said that “[the] proposal that virtually 100% of the population of Puerto Rico could keep the current U.S. nationality and statutory citizenship and at the same time also acquire separate Puerto Rican nationality and citizenship under a new government-to-government treaty relationship establishing separate sovereignty, is legally inconsistent and politically incompatible with separate sovereignty for Puerto Rico.”
“This would amount to an upgrade,” he said, “based on a vote by the people of Puerto Rico to terminate U.S. sovereignty in Puerto Rico.”
Concerns about statehood