WSJ Highlights Poll Showing Few Know Puerto Ricans Are U.S. Citizens Weeks After Slurring Them As "Refugees"
Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON
The disparity between The Wall Street Journal's objective news reporters and its right-wing editorial slant was on full display in a reporter’s blog post highlighting how few poll respondents can correctly identify Puerto Ricans as American citizens. The public's lack of awareness is no doubt fed by outlets like the Journal, which slurred Puerto Ricans as "refugees" in an editorial just five weeks ago.
A June 9 blog post in The Wall Street Journal from economics correspondent Nick Timiraos surmised that one of the challenges members of Congress face as they debate bipartisan legislation to help Puerto Rico stabilize and restructure billions of dollars of government debt is that so few of their constituents realize that Puerto Ricans are natural-born American citizens:
Pop quiz: What’s the national citizenship of people born in Puerto Rico to parents who were also born in Puerto Rico?
If you don’t know the answer to that question, you’re not alone. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but only 43% of Americans answered correctly in a recent Economist/YouGov poll. Some 41% said they were citizens of Puerto Rico, while another 15% weren’t sure.
The statistic underscores one challenge Congress has faced as it considers legislation to address the island’s debt crisis: The issue hasn’t been a high priority for lawmakers partly because their constituents aren’t aware that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.
There are many explanations for why 41 percent of respondents to an Economist/YouGov poll conducted in early May might have incorrectly thought Puerto Ricans are not American citizens. Perhaps the respondents had been reading The Wall Street Journal’s editorials, which on May 2 warned that the island’s debt crisis could create an “exodus” of “Puerto Rican refugees” to the United States mainland. The paper expressed outrage that these so-called “refugees” might “qualify for Medicaid, food stamps and public housing” and worst of all “be able to vote.”
Because Puerto Rico is not a state, its millions of residents do not have any representation in the Congress that will decide their fate -- the same is true for hundreds of thousands of Americans living in other U.S. territories, including Washington, D.C. The editors of the Journal were stoking anxiety that foreign immigrants might move to the United States to steal jobs and skew elections, but the fact is American citizens have the right to live and work wherever they choose in their own country.
Puerto Rico is an integral part of the United States and has been for nearly a century. Its residents have enjoyed birthright citizenship since March 2, 1917, thanks to the Jones-Shafroth Act. Full citizenship was later extended to “All persons born in Puerto Rico on or after April 11, 1899,” by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.