"P.R. SHOULD FORGET ABOUT DUAL CITIZENSHIP"
THE SAN JUAN STAR, VIEWPOINT, WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 1996.
Manase Mansur, Insular Affairs Adviser to Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Natural Resources Committee, said the following on February 20 regarding the bill on Puerto Rico's political status which Young plans to introduce as soon as Congress comes again into session:
1) U.S. citizenship will not be included in the definition of free association, which together with independence and integration (statehood) constitute the three self-governing, non-colonial political status options defined in 1960 by the United Nations.
2) U.S. citizenship can only be guaranteed through permanent union, which under the U.S. Constitution can only be achieved through statehood political status.
3) The Pacific Islands of Marshall, Micronesia, and Palau, now enjoying free association with the United States, were never offered U.S. citizenship because they were separate sovereignties and are now members of the United Nations.
4) If Puerto Rico chooses free association, then it chooses separate nationality and Puerto Rican citizenship.
5) Puerto Rico's present commonwealth status (Estado Libre Asociado, in Spanish) bears no political connection to free association (the STAR, Feb, 21).
The above confirmed what I said in my February 14 column in the STAR titled "Clarifying the Meaning of Free Association."
What should also be made clear in Young's forthcoming status bill is that there is no room for dual citizenship (U.S. and Puerto Rican) in the independence status option because, except in a few individual cases tolerated by the United States, dual citizenship is not within the scope of the U.S. Constitution. One of these individual cases is, for example, a person who may have one citizenship because of his or her place of birth, and another because of the parents' citizenship.
The Puerto Rico Independence party is fully aware of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans cherished their U.S. citizenship. With this in mind, it has considered dual citizenship in its proposed independence status formula. In fact, this possibility was mentioned at the status hearing held in February 1991 by the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, whose chairman was Sen. J. Bennett Johnston.
In his column of February 7, 1991, the STAR's editor, Andrew Viglucci, correctly said: "American citizenship is not just a touchy issue when plebiscite status definitions are debated. For many, it is the only issue, and for the independence cause it is vital to present a scenario in which a new republic of Puerto Rico offers a dual citizenship that can satisfy the anxieties of thousands of independentistas and left-wing members of the Popular Democratic Party who would, despite everything, not wish to give up the security and prestige of American citizenship."
It is pertinent at this time to mention what Richard Thornburgh, then the U.S. Secretary of Justice, said at the February 7, 1991 status hearing referred to above:
"While Congress has power to allow dual citizenship, we strongly oppose allowing such arrangement for the entire population of Puerto Rico, which would differ fundamentally from the isolated cases of individual dual citizenship. It would not be in the best interest of the United States. Such an arrangement potentially could lead to significant U.S. intervention in Puerto Rican affairs in the exercise of the president's responsibility to protect the safety, rights, and welfare of U.S. citizens abroad. Independence for Puerto Rico must mean real independence, which must include a loss of U.S. citizenship for residents of Puerto Rico, who should be required to elect between retaining U.S. citizenship and citizenship of the new republic."
With Thornburgh's statement in mind, I cannot conceive the U.S. Congress granting dual citizenship with all the complexities which such an arrangement entails. It is, therefore, imperative that the position of Congress with respect to dual citizenship in the independence status option be clearly established in order to prevent some Puerto Ricans from harboring false illusions about such an arrangement, which appears to be outside the constitutional scope.
At a time when some Puerto Ricans have renounced their U.S. citizenship, we see, almost daily, people even risking their lives to reach U.S. soil, seeking a better life and hopefully become U.S. citizens. At a ceremony held in San Juan on February 21, 600 persons from 41 different countries proudly became U.S. citizens. And they did so because they undoubtedly believe that the United States, despite all its faults, can still give its citizens the best the world can devise. They knew the United States offers its citizens a way of life under which they enjoy the right to free speech, freedom of worship, and freedom of thought, which are glorious parts of the U.S. heritage. They knew the United States offers its citizens work opportunities, the enjoyment of an institutional order, and a generous tolerance which are hard to find these days in other parts of the world.
Finally, it is hard to understand why some Puerto Ricans renounce their U.S. citizenship and other place U.S. citizenship (with full political and economic rights) and the opportunity to establish a real permanent union with the most powerful and at the same time magnanimous nation in the world (sensitive to human sufferings and needs) in a secondary position to such relative trivialities as having an Olympic team, or Puerto Rico represented in Miss Universe contests.
It is really sad to see the false sense of nationalism and the sense of value and priorities of some fellow Puerto Ricans. I wish to remind them of the late Gov. Muñoz Marín's words in his memorable speech in Barranquitas on October 17, 1951:
"We should not confuse love for our country (nuestra patria-pueblo, in Spanish) with the futile and naive concept of a national state. It is undignified for our conscience and the negation of every ideal, to risk, because of abstract concepts, the hope for a better life."