Roberto De Posada: Romney’s Conservative Credibility Problems Now Being Tested in Puerto Rico

Mitt Romney has a credibility problem among conservative voters. Time and time again, the former Massachusetts’ Governor has been on both sides of almost every issue. And now, in an effort to gain the 20 delegates in the Republican primary in Puerto Rico, he’s at it again.

Addressing conservative audiences, Governor Romney has stated that he wants English to be the official language of the U.S. government and that he wants to reduce Federal spending. However, in Puerto Rico, Romney has announced his support for statehood for the island. In his efforts to win the support of Puerto Rico’s Governor in the GOP primary, he has offered full support for statehood without any kind of language or budgetary requirements to protect the interest of the American public.

This is another example of Romney talking from both sides of his mouth. An unconditional support for Puerto Rican statehood is in direct conflict with the efforts to make English the official language of the U.S. and his promise to reduce spending.

Many argue that we don’t have to worry about statehood for Puerto Rico, because this is simply not going to happen anytime soon. Well, the fact is that Puerto Rico will hold a referendum on statehood this November. If a majority of voters in Puerto Rico vote in favor of statehood on that referendum, the next U.S. Congress would have to face a petition for admission of Puerto Rico as the 51st State.

Adding Puerto Rico as the 51st U.S. State would be a huge fiscal burden for American taxpayers. It would bring immediate demands for a massive transfer of Federal welfare to residents of Puerto Rico. The 2010 Census shows that Puerto Rico’s per capita income is $10,762, half as much as the poorest state in the Union—currently Mississippi—and a third of the national average. Also 41.2 percent of Puerto Rican families live under the poverty level, more than four times the U.S. average.

The Census also reports that only 15 percent of residents of Puerto Rico are fluent in English.  Puerto Rico has two official languages—English and Spanish—but it operates its government and schools in Spanish, which sets them apart from all other 50 states. There is a long history of Congress requiring English to be the language of government and schools for territories seeking to be admitted to the Union, e.g. Louisiana, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma.  For all of the territories that had large non-English speaking populations, Congress announced before the territories voted on the question of statehood that a change in language policy would be a prerequisite for admission.

On language alone, if Puerto Rico were to become our 51st State, the potential costs under current conditions would be astronomical. This would result in establishing a Canadian-style system of bilingualism in the United States government and its cost has been estimated to be $25.67 billion, per year. No territory with an official language other than English has ever been admitted to the Union.

Gov. Romney needs to come clean with Republican voters and be transparent. If he truly believes that English should be the official language of the U.S. and that federal spending must be reduced, than he must tell voters before the Republican primary on the island that Puerto Rico should have to adopt significant language policy changes—that is, change from de facto Spanish to de facto English—and achieve, at the very least, substantial economic parity with the poorest state in the Union before Congress and the President should agree to admit it as the 51st State. This will be another test on Governor Romney’s commitment to conservative values.

Robert G. de Posada is a conservative strategist and the former President of The Latino Coalition.

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