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Argument: Puerto Rico violates idea of states with English as official language

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Supporting quotations

"Statehood for Puerto Rico --- Why It is a Bad Idea!" English First: "Before Congress passes legislation which will allow the citizens of Puerto Rico to decide whether they wish to become America's 51st state or not, it should resolve the question of what language will be used by the government of Puerto Rico. Those who argue that the official language question is not an issue since Puerto Rico has had two official languages since 1902--English and Spanish--were not paying attention to events in the legislature of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico during 1990. In 1990, a member of Puerto Rico's Popular Democratic Party introduced a bill which would declare Spanish to be the sole official language of Puerto Rico. This legislation was endorsed by both Puerto Rican extremists and moderates. Members of the Puerto Rican Independence Party like Senator Fernando Martin informed readers of the New York Daily News on August 26, 1990 that 'Congress has swept the language issue under the rug. . . . Let's see if Congress really wants to accept a Spanish-speaking state.' These basic and unavoidable facts may have been the motivation for the island's former governor, Carlos Romero Barcelo, to plead with Senator J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA) in 1989 to specifically preserve the right of Puerto Ricans to speak Spanish should they choose American statehood. As he was quoted by the Washington Post on June 3, 1989: 'We must go home, go to a plebiscite, tell the nation it is not the congressional intention to force the English language on us. This is used by demagogues in Puerto Rico against statehood that . . . laws would be passed requiring the use of English only.'"

No Puerto Rico Statehood: "The United States has no official language. Even if we did, the Puerto Rico Congressional delegation would be working day and night to impose Spanish everywhere possible, just as the elected officials from Canada's Quebec province work day and night to impose French wherever possible.

As a state, Puerto Rico could make Spanish its only official language (as it did in 1990) and require the rest of the United States to adapt to them. That could cost $2-3 billion each year in language translation costs alone based on the costs Quebec imposes on Canada.

In fact, it is likely that one or more of the Congressional delegation from a 51st state of Puerto Rico will be either unable or unwilling to conduct business in English. Will that mean our Congress will look like a session of the UN General Assembly, with everyone wearing headsets? Must the Congressional Record be printed in Spanish?"

Tim Schultz. "A Spanish 51st State?" National Review Online. March 8th, 2010: "Puerto Rico’s political status is complex, and the Act counts 58 Republicans among its 181 co-sponsors, including thoughtful conservatives like Indiana’s Mike Pence. Whatever the complexities, though, thoughtful people should agree that no state in the Union legally treats English as its “second” language, let alone as a foreign language, and a Puerto Rican state should not be an exception.

[...] The foreignness of English in Puerto Rico is greater in magnitude than it was in any state at any time in our national experience. Census data show that just 20 percent of the island’s residents speak English fluently. By comparison, California has the lowest proficiency rate among the 50 states, but its 80 percent proficiency rate dwarfs Puerto Rico’s. The deeply rooted preference for Spanish makes Puerto Rico’s 1993 elevation of English to “co-official” status practically irrelevant. Authentic “official English” policies increase English learning, but they will not work when English is merely an add-on to a pre-existing official language that is spoken in 95 percent of homes. Congress should condition statehood on making English the sole official language, which would still allow Spanish translations for a population in transition while insisting on acceptance of the lingua franca of the Union."

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