What Does Puerto Rican Citizenship Mean for Puerto Rico's Legal Status?

10 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2018 Last revised: 11 Jun 2018

See all articles by Joseph Blocher

Joseph Blocher

Duke University School of Law

G. Mitu Gulati

Duke University School of Law

Date Written: April 19, 2018

Abstract

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico occupies a strange netherworld within the United States. To quote an infamous Supreme Court decision from a century ago, it is "foreign in a domestic sense." Eminent scholars have suggested that the reason for giving Puerto Rico this unusual status was to preserve Congress's power to expel Puerto Rico from the Union. But is such a power plausible today? Puerto Ricans are natural born US citizens. Even if Congress had the right to "dispose" of a territory such as Puerto Rico, could it also strip Puerto Ricans of their citizenship?

We argue that the citizenship rights enjoyed by Puerto Ricans today - granted by statute, and solidified by nearly a century of historical practice - are not compatible with an unrestrained Congressional power to expel the island, and that the latter must yield. That, in turn, suggests that perhaps Puerto Rico is no longer "foreign" to the United States in any sense.

Keywords: Puerto Rico, Citizenship, Statehood

JEL Classification: K33, K37

Suggested Citation

Blocher, Joseph and Gulati, Gaurang Mitu, What Does Puerto Rican Citizenship Mean for Puerto Rico's Legal Status? (April 19, 2018). Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series 2018-37. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3165623 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3165623

Joseph Blocher (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Gaurang Mitu Gulati

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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