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U.S.English to Puerto Rico: English Is the Next Step Toward Statehood

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - Nov 12, 2012) - U.S.English Chairman Mauro E. Mujica released the following statement today in response to news that Puerto Rico residents favored statehood in a recent plebiscite to determine the island's future political status.

"The will of Puerto Rico residents was made clear last week, when 61 percent of voters indicated support for the territory becoming a 51st state in the United States of America," Mujica said. "Now, as Congress prepares to deliberate, Puerto Ricans should prepare for the linguistic and cultural changes that will result from this decision. Historically, when the United States has considered admitting a state with a large non-English speaking population, such territories first had to concede to language-related conditions. In Puerto Rico, more than 2.7 million residents, or 80 percent of the population, are considered limited English proficient. Seventy-one percent of households are considered linguistically isolated, meaning no one aged 14 and older speaks English very well. With a clear non-English speaking majority, Puerto Rico should expect to be no different when it comes to language requirements prior to statehood consideration. "

Before Louisiana became a state, the Louisiana Enabling Act of 1811 was signed, requiring the new state to guarantee that judicial and legislative proceedings would be conducted in English. Oklahoma and New Mexico were both required to have guarantees in their state constitutions that schooling would be conducted in English, and Arizona guaranteed that public officials would be able to read, write and speak English as a condition to hold an elected office.

"In order to ensure that Puerto Rico would work seamlessly with the other 50 states, the territory should prepare to function as an English-speaking state. Without English proficiency, a resident of the United States is not only unable to participate fully in the democratic process, but they are also less likely to achieve the social and economic success for which our nation is known," Mujica added. "The United States cannot, and should not, accept a state in which a majority of citizens are unable to speak the common language in this country: English."

Puerto Rico had previously voted on a change in political status in 1967, 1993 and 1998. This is the first time residents have favored a change, with 54 percent supporting an option other than the current Commonwealth status and 61 percent supporting statehood, as opposed to sovereign free association or independence.

U.S.English, Inc. is the nation's oldest and largest non-partisan citizens' action group dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in the United States. Founded in 1983 by the late Sen. S.I. Hayakawa of California, U.S.English, Inc. (www.usenglish.org) now has more than 1.8 million members.