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        The hearings of the U.S. House of Representatives' Resources Committee recently held in San Juan and Mayagüez on the proposed 1998 status referendum (erroneously referred to here as status plebiscite) brought to light once again the myths and misinformation that continue to flood our political arena and which have our people in a state of confusion and apprehension.

        Much to the embarrassment of people in Puerto Rico with a sense of dignity, discipline, tolerance and respect for the opinion of others, the hearings were also marked by well-orchestrated screaming, fiery, arrogant, defiant, insulting and disrespectful speeches, yelling and clapping that overshadowed the presentation of witnesses, the singing of the revolutionary version of Puerto Rico's national anthem and the burning in Mayagüez of the U.S. flag by some independence supporters.

        The so-called patriotic acts and uncivilized conduct not only dishonored the noble ideal of independence, which merits my highest respect, but it tarnished the good image of Puerto Rico in the eyes of the world.

        This is certainly not the true and constructive patriotism and Puerto Ricanism that we need to struggle, in a civilized and rational way, to pull ourselves out of our colonial status dilemma and to achieve a better, more secure, more politically, economically and socially stable, and progressive Puerto Rico.

        Independence supporters must remember that their right to freedom of speech, and to think and act as people who are free, is not enjoyed by many oppressed people in so-called independent nations. It was made possibly by the democratic way of life we enjoy in Puerto Rico under the flag they viciously burned, profaned and desecrated.

        With respect to the myths and misinformation that came up at the hearing, the following are worth mentioning:

United States Citizenship.


U.S. citizenship of Puerto Ricans is revocable.


U.S. citizenship is irrevocable because citizenship, once granted, becomes an acquired constitutional right. Congress can revoke normal and routine legislation, but not legislation which has granted privileges of a constitutional nature, such as citizenship. Congress admitted territories as states of the union, but it cannot now kick them out. It granted independence to the Philippine Islands, but it cannot now take it away from them.

In the case of Afroyen vs. Rusk (387 U.S. 233, 1967), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "there cannot be the slightest indiction of the creation of a type of citizenship which congress would be authorized to destroy at any time." It further ruled that "Congress does not have any general power, expressed or implied, to take away an American citizen's citizenship without his or her consent."

So the doctrine that "what Congress creates it can destroy" does not apply to citizenship. A person can only lose his or her citizenship if the citizenship is renounced, if allegiance to another country is pledged with the intention of renouncing the citizenship, or if treason is committed against the U.S.

It must be further pointed out that the irrevocability of U.S. citizenship is not based on any particular political status, as presently claimed.


U.S. citizenship was imposed on Puerto Rico by Congress in 1917.


Since early in the century, Puerto Ricans struggled to obtain U.S. citizenship, and it was through the efforts of patriots such as Luis Muñoz Rivera, José de Diego, José Celso Barbosa, Federico Degetau and Santiago Iglesias, that congress, under the 1917 Jones Act, granted on a voluntary basis collective, naturalized U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans.


U.S. citizenship was granted to Puerto Ricans in 1917 in order to enable the U.S. to draft them to serve in the armed forces during World War I.


Before World War I, President Theodore Roosevelt proposed to Congress in 1905 the granting of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans. More importantly, U.S. citizenship never has been a condition for armed service. Foreigners residing in the U.S. are subject to the U.S. Military Draft Law, which dates back to when the U.S. colonies drafted men to serve in their militias.


U.S. citizenship of Puerto Ricans is a legislated citizenship, not a constitutional one.


U.S. citizenship granted to Puerto Ricans in 1917 was a naturalized legislative or statutory citizenship. But under the 1940 U.S. Nationality Act, ratified by the Nationality Law in 1952, effective January 13, 1941, all persons born in Puerto Rico after that date are considered natural born U.S. citizens and, therefore, their U.S. citizenship is protected under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Dual Citizenship.

Assertion: In the case of Puerto Rico becoming an independent republic or a republic with a free association pact with the U.S., Puerto Ricans will be able to enjoy dual citizenship (U.S. and Puerto Rican).


This claim has been made by the autonomist PRO-ELA group who favor a free association status. The claim has no legal or constitutional basis.

Except in a few individual cases tolerated by the U.S., dual citizenship is not within the scope of the U.S. Constitution. Such is the case, for example, if a person who may have one citizenship because of his or her place of birth and another because of the parents' citizenship.

On February 1, 1991, at congressional status hearings, then U.S. Secretary of Justice Richard Thornburgh said, "It would not be to the United States' best interests to grant dual citizenship to the entire population of the republic of Puerto Rico. Independence for Puerto Rico must mean real independence, which must include the loss of U.S. citizenship for residents of Puerto Rico who will be required to select between retaining their U.S. citizenship and the citizenship of the new republic."

Contrary to what has been said, the inhabitants of the Pacific island republics of Marshall, Micronesia and Palau do not have nor were they ever offered dual citizenship under their free association pact with the U.S.

        In conclusion, I believe Rep. Don Young and members of his committee deserve the applause and respect of the people of Puerto Rico for the admirable, cool, calm and collected way they conducted the hearings amidst so much wild clapping, yelling and heckling, and the hostile and provocative expressions against them by some witnesses. As was well said in the April 23 STAR editorial, the hearings "would have tried the patience of lesser men."

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