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Constitutional? Santorum Says Puerto Rico Must Adopt English to Become U.S. State

"Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law."

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum has had an astounding week. With primary wins in Alabama and Mississippi under his belt, the candidate took his campaigning to Puerto Rico, where he is hoping to drum up support. But in an interview with El Vocero newspaper, Santorum made a comment about the English language that is gaining mass attention. He said that, though he supports Puerto Rico's right to pave its own political path, he does not support a state in which English is not the primary language.

"Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law," Santorum is quoted as saying. "And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language."

Reuters called this quote "a statement at odds with the Constitution," reporting that there is no stipulation that a state must officially adopt the English language. "...The U.S. Constitution does not designate an official language, nor is there a requirement that a territory adopt English as its primary language in order to become a state," Reuters reports.

The outlet went on to speculate that these comments could hurt Santorum among Hispanic voters -- specifically right-leaning Puerto Ricans who typically maintain that language and culture are state, not federal issues. Outside of Puerto Rico, such comments could alienate Santorum to a degree in Florida, which is a swing state with a large Hispanic population.

Rep. Pedro Pierluisi (D), of Puerto Rico reacted to Santorum's comments, saying:

 “It's incorrect to say that there's a federal law imposing English as the only official language in our states. The Constitution doesn't provide anything along those lines either. And in Puerto Rico, as a matter of fact, we have two official languages, English and Spanish. Santorum's view is narrow and limiting view of what America is all about. English is the predominant language in the U.S. and will continue to be so, whether Puerto Rico becomes a state or not. In Puerto Rico, 90 percent of our parents want their children to become fluent in English. So, it's a non-issue and shouldn't be a factor in determining whether Puerto Rico can join the Union or not.”

Watch these comments, below:

It is important to note that without video, we don't yet know the full context of the quote or if it was adequately conveyed. Either way, it's likely this is an issue that the candidate will be commenting on and clarifying in the near future.

Also, this morning on CNN's "Starting Point," The Blaze's Will Cain offered a defense for Santorum. Mediaite has more:

Starting Point regular Will Cain waded in to defend Santorum. “Although (there is) no federal law requiring English the official language, when Louisiana was brought into the country, the government said you need to adopt English as your official language.”

He’s referring to the Louisiana Enabling Act, which says that “the laws which such state may pass shall be promulgated and its records of every description shall be preserved, and its judicial and legislative written proceedings conducted in the language in which the laws and the judicial and legislative written proceedings of the United States are now published and conducted.”

Cain also referenced a similar act passed prior to Oklahoma’s achievement of statehood, which required public schools with classes taught in English, and concluded “Let’s not paint Santorum as a doofus. This is not unprecedented.”

Here's the video:

Despite what some see as a flap over language, Santorum did support the notion that the island's own people should decide its fate. Currently, both English and Spanish are recognized as Puerto Rico's official languages. In November, the U.S. commonwealth will vote regarding whether it would like to become a state or continue on with its current relationship with the mainland.

On Sunday, Puerto Rico will hold its primary, which will offer GOP candidates the opportunity to secure 20 delegates.

This story has been updated.

(H/T: Huffington Post)

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