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Judging from what I have been reading recently, there seems to be serious misunderstanding and confusion regarding Puerto Rican citizenship, statutory U.S. citizenship and the citizenship of persons born in the states of the union. The following is to set the record straight on the citizenship of Puerto Ricans from the days of the Spanish regime to date.

1. During the Spanish regime, Puerto Ricans living here were Spanish subjects who did not enjoy the full rights and privileges enjoyed by their counterparts in Spain. However, Puerto Rican Spanish subjects living in Spain enjoyed full rights and privileges. (The same is the case now with Puerto Rican U.S. citizens living in the mainland United States.)

2. Between October 1898 (when the U.S. occupied Puerto Rico) and April 11, 1899 (when the Treaty of Paris, under which Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States, was ratified), Puerto Ricans, technically speaking, continued to be Spanish subjects.

3. From April 11, 1899 to April 30, 1900, all inhabitants of Puerto Rico who were Spanish subjects were considered to be non-citizen U.S. nationals.

4. Between May 1, 1900 (when the Foraker Act became effective and Puerto Rico was given a civilian government after 400 years of Spanish military governments) and March 2, 1917, the non-citizen U.S. nationals in Puerto Rico also became citizens of Puerto Rico for residency purposes only. They continued under the protection of the U.S., but with minimum rights. It must be noted that said Puerto Rican citizenship had no juridical international recognition then, nor does it have it to date.

5. After the U.S. Congress approved the Jones Act on May 2, 1917, the non-citizen U.S. nationals were given on a voluntary basis (not imposed as some political sectors claim) collective naturalized U.S. citizenship, known as statutory citizenship because it was granted by an Act of the U.S. Congress. The classification of Puerto Rican citizenship ceased with the Jones Act; it was not until 1927 that it was reestablished for residency purpose only.

6. From March 2, 1917 to January 13, 1941, children born of those who became U.S. citizens under the Jones Act were considered U.S. citizens jure sanguinis (blood relationship, not by naturalization). They, however, could not run for the U.S. presidency because they were not "naturally born" (jure soli, the rule of place in birth as required by the U.S. Constitution).

7. The 1940 Nationality Act, which became effective January 13, 1941, applied the rule jure solis to persons born in Puerto Rico after that date by including the island within its definition of the United States for purposes of immigration laws. Subsequently, in 1952, the act specifically applied the rule of jure solis to persons born in Puerto Rico on or after January 13, 1941, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. In other words, they were considered "natural born" U.S. citizens, contrary to what has been claimed these days by some political leaders.

It is to be noted, however, that these "natural born" U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are not qualified to run for the U.S. presidency because they do not meet the constitutional requirement of residence within the United States, because they were born in a U.S. territory, not a part of the United States for all constitutional purposes. For the same reason, U.S. citizens legally domiciled in Puerto Rico cannot vote for the U.S. president, vice president and members of Congress.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that "it is location which determines the application of the U.S. Constitution and not the citizenship status of the people who live in that territory," Balzac vs. Puerto Rico, 258 U.S. 301 (1922) and Harris vs. Rosario, 466 U.S. 651 (1980).

The above explains why continental Americans legally domiciled in Puerto Rico, although natural born U.S. citizens, cannot vote in federal elections. They may exercise their right, however, if they move back to establish legal residence in the mainland U.S. The same right applies to the natural born U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico if they move to live and establish residence in any one of the states. Please note that naturalized U.S. citizens enjoy the same rights and privileges as the natural born U.S. citizenship (also known as constitutional citizenship). By the same token naturalized, or statutory U.S. citizenship, is also irrevocable because it entails an acquired constitutional right that cannot be revoked.

For example, Congress admitted territories as states of the Union, but it cannot kick those states out of the Union now. Congress may revoke normal and routine legislation, but not legislation which has granted rights and privileges of a constitutional nature, such as citizenship.

In the case of Afroyim vs. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "there could not be the slightest indication of the creation of a type of citizenship which Congress would be authorized to destroy at any time." The Court further ruled that Congress "does not have any general power, espoused or implied, to take away an American citizen’s citizenship without his or her consent.

That jurisprudence clearly established that the doctrine that "what Congress creates it can destroy," does not apply to citizenship and other constitutionally acquired rights.

In conclusion, as long as we remain under the U.S. flag, Puerto Rican citizenship has no juridical or legally recognized international standing. It exists for residency purposes only; we are citizens of Puerto Rico the same way there are citizens of New York, Texas or California for residency purposes only. There is no such thing as an official Puerto Rico citizenship or passport, and this will remain the case unless Puerto Rico becomes an independent republic, or unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules to the contrary.

It should be noted that a ruling on this matter by Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court is expected in October of this year. Should our Supreme Court rule that there is a juridical and official Puerto Rico citizenship, I am quite certain that such ruling will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One final observation. Those that claim they were admitted to other countries with a Puerto Rican passport issued by an organization here known as Pro-Country National Union are misleading our people. Actually, they have traveled to countries which do not require a passport, only a birth certificate or voting registration card as evidence of their U.S. citizenship. If those traveling with a Puerto Rican passport wish to test its validity, all they have to do is travel to countries requiring a passport for entry. I predict that any country requiring a passport will only recognize, in the case of Puerto Ricans, a U.S. passport, and will give no validity to the Puerto Rican passport issued to members of separatist sectors.

Things must be seen as they really are and not as some people would like them to be. Therefore, we must call them by their own name, free of emotions, sentimentalism and political and ideological fanaticism, and adjust them to historical truth and facts and the juridical reality of Puerto Rico's present political status under the U.S. flag.


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