As I have done with other sensitive topics and points of contention on this blog in the past, allow me to answer the question ‘are Puerto Ricans immigrants in the US? Definitively and right off the bat: no.
Puerto Ricans are not immigrants the United States. There are a few very technical reasons for this but to put it simply, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated United States territory which entitles its natives to automatic US citizenship upon birth.
It can be a bit confusing when you don’t have the background on the subject because on every other front, it would seem like Puerto Rico is its own country entirely. They have their own flag, Spanish is the main language spoken there, and they are not even part of the mainland United States.
In many rights, Puerto Rico is its own country; they maintain much independence from the U.S. and have their own very distinct Puerto Rican culture.
When it comes right down to it, if someone from Puerto Rico decides they want to move to the U.S. not only it is a much easier process for them when compared to natives of other Latin American and Caribbean countries, they most certainly are not to be considered immigrants.
What Makes the Difference
At this point you may be asking yourself what is the difference between Puerto Rico and other Caribbean or Latin American countries.
Firstly, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the US all the way back in 1898 but that still didn’t make Puerto Ricans automatic citizens. That came with the outbreak of World War I when the Jones-Shafroth act was passed. Although this act was passed most likely just so that Puerto Ricans to add to our fighting forces, it did and still does to this day, make all Puerto Rican born persons a United States citizen.
There are extenuating circumstances however (after all, we are talking about governmental matters) for Puerto Rican citizens. For example, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in US presidential elections right off the bat. This right only comes after they have an established residence within the United States. Other than that Puerto Ricans are as American as any other person born in the states.
Puerto Ricans in America
There are about 5 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States. They make up 9% of the Hispanic population living within the United States and have contributed greatly to the Latin flavor that is so prevalent in our nation.
Most Puerto Ricans in the US are fluent in English and you can always count on Puerto Ricans to maintain strong ties to their home land even if they were actually born in America.
Are Puerto Rican Immigrants? Get it Straight
While you are not likely to be corrected in a rude way should you accidentally refer to Puerto Ricans living in the states as immigrants you are probably not likely to endear yourself to anyone else who considers themselves culturally sensitive by doing so.
The better we understand each other and the unique circumstances that follow us as a result of our different heritages, the more we will enjoy what there is to enjoy about such differences. The next time you get asked the question: are Puerto Ricans immigrants? hopefully, you will know exactly how to respond.
If you are interested in knowing more about Puerto Rican culture like their Christmas celebrations, foods and traditions check out Puerto Rican Pasteles, Puerto Rican Parrandas or What Is the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.