Puerto Rican citizenship
Puerto Rican citizenship was first legislated by the U.S. Congress in Article 7 of the Foraker Act of 1900 and later recognized in the Puerto Rican constitution. On October 25, 2006, Juan Mari Brás became the first person to receive a Puerto Rican citizenship certificate from the Puerto Rico Department of State. According to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, "Under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, those persons born in Puerto Rico and subject to its jurisdiction, are citizens of Puerto Rico. Such citizenship is not the national citizenship of an independent country or state, but it does not imply mere residency either."
United States recognition of Puerto Rican citizenship
On April 12, 1900, the Congress of the United States enacted the Foraker Act of 1900, which replaced the governing military regime in Puerto Rico with a civil form of government. Section VII of this act created a Puerto Rican citizenship for the residents "born in Puerto Rico and, therefore, subject to its jurisdiction". The Puerto Rican citizenship replaced the Spanish citizenship that Puerto Ricans enjoyed at the time of the American invasion in 1898. Such Puerto Rican citizenship was granted by Spain in 1897. This citizenship was reaffirmed by the United States Supreme Court in 1904 by its ruling in Gonzales v. Williams which denied that Puerto Ricans were United States citizens and labeled them as noncitizen nationals. In a 1914 letter of refusal to the offer of U.S. citizenship and addressed to both the President of the United States and the U.S. Congress, the Puerto Rico House of Delegates stated "We, Porto Ricans, Spanish-Americans, of Latin soul ... are satisfied with our own beloved Porto Rican citizenship, and proud to have been born and brethren in our own motherland." The official 1916 Report by the American colonial governor of Puerto Rico to the U.S. Secretary of War (the old name for the Secretary of the Army), addresses both citizenships, the Puerto Rican citizenship and United States citizenship, in the context of the issuance of passports, further evidencing that the Puerto Rican citizenship did not disappear when the Americans took over the island in 1898.
Puerto Rican citizenship and Puerto Rican nationality
A 1918 official report from the American colonial governor of Puerto Rico to the U.S. Secretary of War, this one after the Jones Act of 1917 had become law, states that the "passports...[are used to] prove a person's nationality," thus making clear that Puerto Rican citizenship and Puerto Rican nationality were one and the same. Currently, the United States government recognizes this status in its own records. For example, the CIA World Fact Book, states that the nationality of Puerto Ricans is not "American" but, in fact, "Puerto Rican." The Spanish Government also recognizes Puerto Ricans as a people with Puerto Rican, "and not American," citizenship. It also provides Puerto Rican citizens privileges not provided to citizens of several other nations. Since 2007, the Government of Puerto Rico has been issuing "Certificates of Puerto Rican Citizenship."
United States citizenship
On March 2, 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act was signed, collectively making Puerto Ricans citizens without rescinding their Puerto Rican citizenship. In 1922, the U.S. Supreme court in the case of Balzac v. Porto Rico ruled that the full protection and rights of the U.S constitution do not apply to residents of Puerto Rico until they come to reside in the United States proper. Luis Muñoz Rivera, who participated in the creation of the Jones-Shafroth Act, gave a speech in the U.S. House floor that argued in favor of Puerto Rican citizenship. He declared that "if the earth were to swallow the island, Puerto Ricans would prefer American citizenship to any citizenship in the world. But as long as the island existed, the residents preferred Puerto Rican citizenship." The Jones Act allowed locals to renounce the United States citizenship and remain exclusively Puerto Rican citizens, at the cost of being stripped of the right to vote. Despite these arbitrary limitations, 287 residents completed the process to forfeit the statutory recognition.
In 1952, upon U.S. Congress approving the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, also reaffirmed that Puerto Rican citizenship continued in full force. This was further reaffirmed in 2006 while the U.S. Senate probed into the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's status. In 1953, U.S Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., in a memorandum sent to the United Nations, recognized that "the people of Puerto Rico continue to be citizens of the United States as well as of Puerto Rico."
Puerto Rican citizenship reaffirmed
In 1994, Puerto Rican activist Juan Mari Brás flew to Venezuela and renounced his US citizenship before a consular agent in the US Embassy. Mari Brás through his renunciation of U.S. citizenship, sought to redefine Section VII as a source of law that recognized a Puerto Rican nationality separate from that of the United States. In December 1995, his denaturalization was confirmed by the US State Department. Among the arguments that ensued over his action was whether he would now be able to vote in elections in Puerto Rico. On November 18, 1997, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico through its ruling in Miriam J. Ramirez de Ferrer v. Juan Mari Brás reaffirmed the Puerto Rican citizenship by ruling that U.S. citizenship was not a requirement to vote in Puerto Rico. According to the court's majority opinion, the Puerto Rican citizenship is recognized several times in the Puerto Rican constitution including section 5 of article III, section 3 of article IV, and section 9 of article V. In a 2006 memorandum, the Secretary of Justice of Puerto Rico concluded, based on the Mari Brás case, that the Puerto Rican citizenship is "separate and different" from the United States citizenship.
The Puerto Rico Supreme Court decision affirms that persons born in Puerto Rico and persons subject to their jurisdiction are citizens of Puerto Rico under the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Constitution. The Court cited as part of the applicable jurisdiction to decide this case, United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875) pp 549, the U.S. Supreme Court affirm: There is in our political system a government of each of the several States, and a Government of the United States. Each is distinct from the others, and has citizens of its own who owe it allegiance, and whose rights, within its jurisdiction, it must protect. The same person may be at the same time a citizen of the United States and a citizen of a State, but his rights of citizenship under one of those governments will be different from those he has under the other.
Also the Puerto Rico Supreme Court cited U.S. Supreme Court case Snowden v. Hughes, 321 U.S. 1, 7 (1943) that affirm: The protection extended to citizens of the United States by the privileges and immunities clause includes those rights and privileges which, under the laws and Constitution of the United States, are incident to citizenship of the United States, but does not include rights pertaining to state citizenship and derived solely from the relationship of the citizen and his state established by state law. The right to become a candidate for state office, like the right to vote for the election of state officers, is a right or privilege of state citizenship, not of national citizenship, which alone is protected by the privileges and immunities clause.
Finally, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court affirms that Puerto Rican citizenship identifies the persons that have it as integral members of the Puerto Rican community. This is the integral juridical tie between the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and their citizens. The court stated that "Puerto Rican political community is defined better by the citizenship of Puerto Rico than by US citizenship. That is a fact not subject to historical rectifications and a reality which no law can change."
However, Governor Pedro Rosselló on November 17, 1997 signed Law 132 which amends Puerto Rico's Political Code and literally states that "Toda persona que posea la nacionalidad y sea ciudadano de los Estados Unidos y residente dentro de la jurisdicción del territorio de Puerto Rico será ciudadano de Puerto Rico.", or "Every person who posseses the nationality and is a citizen of the United States and resides within the jurisdiction of the territory of Puerto Rico shall be a citizen of Puerto Rico". This law supersedes all previous laws and Supreme Court opinions drafted prior to the law's enactment. It must be noted that while the most recent court opinion was issued the day after Law 132 was enacted, it was drafted prior to, and makes no reference to, Law 132.
Since the summer of 2007, the Puerto Rico State Department has developed a protocol to grant Puerto Rican citizenship certificates to Puerto Ricans. Certificates of Puerto Rican citizenship are issued to any persons born on the island as well as to those born outside of the island that have at least one parent who was born on the island. Any U.S. citizen with at least one year of residence on the island is also eligible for the official citizenship certificate. The certificate is not a valid travel document. From 2009 to 2013, Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock, the author of Law 132-2007, did not sign any Puerto Rican citizenship certificates.
In the case of Colon v. U.S. Department of State, 2 F.Supp.2d 43 (1998), plaintiff was a United States citizen born in Puerto Rico and resident of Puerto Rico, who executed an oath of renunciation before a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In rejecting Plaintiff’s renunciation, the Department notes that Plaintiff demonstrated no intention of renouncing all ties to the United States. While Plaintiff claims to reject his United States citizenship, he nevertheless wants to remain a resident of Puerto Rico. Plaintiff’s response to the Secretary’s position is to claim a fundamental distinction between United States and Puerto Rican citizenship. The U.S. Department of State position asserts that renunciation of U.S. citizenship must entail renunciation of Puerto Rican citizenship as well. The court does decide to not enter to the merits of the citizenship issue; however the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected Colon’s petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State to approve a Certificate of Loss of Nationality in the case because the plaintiff wanted to retain one of the primary benefits of U.S. citizenship while claiming he was not a U.S. citizen. The Court described the plaintiff as a person, "claiming to renounce all rights and privileges of United States citizenship, [while] Plaintiff wants to continue to exercise one of the fundamental rights of citizenship, namely to travel freely throughout the world and when he wants to, return and reside in the United States. The court based this decision on the Immigration and Nationality Act section 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(38), that provide the term “United States” definition and evince that Puerto Rico is a part of the United States for such purposes.
Based on the federal court ruling on Colon v. U.S. Department of State, months after the U.S. State Department accepted his renunciation, the president of the Puerto Rico Socialist Party, Juan Mari Bras, was notified on June 4, 1998, by the U.S Department of State, that they were rescinding their acceptance, and refused to accept Juan Mari Bras renunciation, determining that Mari Brás could not renounce his American citizenship because he did not request another national citizenship, and he was born and remains living and working in Puerto Rico. This, said the federal agency, makes Mari Brás a U.S. citizen, the only national citizenship that Washington recognizes for Puerto Ricans.
The certificate is recognized as a legitimate document by the Spanish government. Based on the Spanish Civil Code's Organic Law 4/2000 (enacted January 11, 2000 and amended by Royal Decree on April 20, 2011) which covers the awarding of the Spanish citizenship to foreigners, those that possess the document are considered Ibero-American nationals. On June 25, 2007, the General Directory of Registry and Notary Affairs of the Ministry of Justice the passed RDGRN 25-06-2007, which recognized Puerto Rico as an Ibero-American country as far as the Spanish Civil Code is concerned. To further confirm this stance, the Ministry of Justice has included Puerto Rico in their list of Ibero-American countries eligible to acquire the Spanish citizenship with priority, while also excluding the Caribbean countries of Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana, and Trinidad & Tobago. The certificate of Puerto Rican citizenship is the foremost requisite to qualify under these circumstances. The other requisite is at least two years of continuous residence in Spanish soil. Puerto Ricans that only possess the United States citizenship are not considered residents of an Iberoamerican country and do not receive priority, requiring instead ten years of continuous residence. In legal terms, Puerto Ricans that acquire the Spanish citizenship with the use of the certificate would possess four citizenships recognized in Europe: those of Puerto Rico, the United States, Spain and the European Union (automatically granted along that of Spain). On September 23, 2013, Representative Manuel Natal Albelo presented a bill that would render official the international recognition of the Puerto Rican citizenship through the Secretary of State, pursuing more rights within the international community.
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