100 years of Puerto Ricans’ U.S. citizenship and the political status
By Edwin Melendez and Charles R. Venator-Santiago
In 1917, the Jones Act extended U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans. Many law- and policy-makers in the U.S and Puerto Rico erroneously believe —or deceivingly propose —that U.S. citizenship for island-born Puerto Ricans residing in Puerto Rico is contingent upon the resolution of the territorial status of Puerto Rico.
A century after the enactment of the Jones Act, recent events have brought the permanency of Puerto Rican U.S. citizenship to the forefront of political considerations. Last summer, in a span of a few days, Congress enacted one law and the Supreme Court decided two cases that affirmed the Puerto Rico’s century-old unincorporated territorial status.
Earlier this year the Commonwealth government enacted a law for a non-binding plebiscite on the status of Puerto Rico on June 11, 2017. This will be the fifth status plebiscite since the
Puerto Rican legislature began conducting these electoral events. The ballot will offer only two options: Statehood and Independence/Free Association, and exclude the traditional
“Commonwealth” status option. Because of the exclusion of the “Commonwealth” status option, among other reasons, the 2017 status plebiscite, as was the case in the 2012 referendum, lacks the
endorsement of the Partido Popular Democratico, the island’s main opposition political party.
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