McClintock: Puerto Rico’s Political Status “An Anomaly” in US Constitutional System

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - November 30, 2012

Above: Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kennth McClintock

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock is urging US Congressional leaders to move forward on statehood for the island territory and “tear down” the “anachronistic” wall that he said had deprived Puerto Ricans of their most basic right of American citizenship.

“Rather than questioning if Puerto Rico wants to be admitted into the Union, members of Congress should be asking themselves what kind of constitution and citizenship they want the United States to have,” he said in plenary remarks at the Caribbean Central America Action Conference in New Orleans this week.

He pointed to the fact that 54 percent of Puerto Ricans voted to change the island’s status in the Nov. 6 election, although around 65,000 voters left that ballot question blank.

“Puerto Rico’s political status is an anomaly in the US constitutional system,” he said. “With this plebiscite, the American citizens of Puerto Rico have withdrawn any plausible consent to Congress ruling over the island by virtue of the Territory Clause of the US Constitution.”

McClintock, the Democratic National Committeeman and former Chairman of the US Council of State Governments, is also the lieutenant governor to outgoing Governor Luis Fortuño, who was topped by Alejandro Garcia Padilla on Nov. 6 by a razor thin margin of less than 1 percent.

“Today, Puerto Rico is considered to be an unincorporated territory of the United States because of a court of segregationist judges could not conceive of a faraway island inhabited by Hispanics, rather than Anglo-Saxons, to be a part of this nation, even if they were American citizens,” he said, referring to the US Supreme Court’s decision in Balzac v. Porto Rico in 1922. “To this very day, to their shame, there are still some members of Congress who want Puerto Rico to continue to be an unincorporated territory indefinitely.”

In Balzac, the Supreme Court found that several provisions of the US Constitution were not applicable to the the United States’ territories.

McClintock said that America “should not accept a lesser class of American citizenship for Puerto Ricans as it was once acceptable to have a lesser class of American citizenship for African-Americans and women.”

Balzac is bad law,” he said. “The territory clause cannot be the constitutions’s escape clause. Puerto Rico is a part of the United States and must be treated as such.”

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