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Puerto Rican Citizenship Returns to the People



In 1917 the United States Congress unilaterally passed the Jones Act imposing American citizenship to the people of Puerto Rico, just in time to draft many into American uniforms to fight in World War I. During the intervening years the idea of Puerto Rican citizenship, separate from American citizenship, has been debated almost exclusively among the intellectual circles of the island and rendering the issue dead among the masses. Now after many years Puerto Ricans will once again be able to claim their rightful citizenship once again.

In 1995, Puerto Rican activist Juan Mari Bras flew to Venezuela and denounced his American citizenship in protest of the against the colonial rule of the United States. Juan Mari bras then returned to the island as a Puerto Rican citizen, but no longer an American citizen. Among the arguments that ensued over his action was whether he would now be able to vote in elections in Puerto Rico, since it was only American citizenship that had been recognize since 1917. However the issue came to a resolution in 1997 when the Puerto Rican Supreme Court declared that not only did Mari Bras have official Puerto Rican citizenship, but that all Puerto Ricans had such citizenship as well.

Now in 2007, 90 years after the Jones Act and 10 years after the declaration of the Puerto Rican Supreme Court, the State Department of Puerto Rico will begin issuing once again citizenship papers certifying Puerto Rican citizenship. All Puerto Ricans, either born in the island, born of Puerto Rican parents, or American citizens who have lived in the island for at least a year are eligible for certification. Puerto Ricans residing outside the island may also get their citizenship.

There is a question still whether citizenship will be automatic for anyone else born in the island from this point forward, though it seems doubtful since the island government will charge $30 for the certification of citizenship. But that just means we'll need another court case to make that right, and the hard part is over now. Thank you Juan Mari Bras

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