York’s Largest Spanish Weekly Newspaper, Feb. 28, 2017 – Barely a month before the United States enters World War I, President Woodrow Wilson signs the Jones-Shafroth act, granting U.S. citizenship to the inhabitants of Puerto Rico.
Located about 1,000 miles southeast of Florida-and less than half that distance from the coast of South America-Puerto Rico was ceded to the U.S. by Spain in December 1898 as part of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War. In 1900, a Congressional act created a civil government for the island; the first governor under this act, Charles H. Allen, was appointed by President William McKinley and inaugurated that May in Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan.
On March 2, 1917, Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act, under which Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory and Puerto Ricans were granted statutory citizenship, meaning that citizenship was granted by an act of Congress and not by the Constitution (thus it was not guaranteed by the Constitution). The act also created a bill of rights for the territory, separated its government into executive, legislative and judicial branches, and declared Puerto Rico’s official language to be English.
As citizens, Puerto Ricans could now join the U.S. Army, but few chose to do so. After Wilson signed a compulsory military service act two months later, however, 20,000 Puerto Ricans were eventually drafted to serve during World War I. Puerto Rican soldiers were sent to guard the Panama Canal, the important waterway, in operation since 1914, which joined the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean across the Isthmus of Panama in Central America. Puerto Rican infantry regiments were also sent to the Western Front, including the 396th Infantry Regiment of Puerto Rico, created in New York City, whose members earned the nickname Harlem Hell Fighters.
Later, during World War II, Puerto Rico became an important military and naval base for the U.S. Army. Its economy continued to grow, aided by a hydroelectric-power expansion program instituted in the 1940s. In 1951, Puerto Rican voters approved by referendum a new U.S. law granting the islanders the right to draft their own constitution. In March 1952, Luis Munoz Marin, Puerto Rico’s governor, proclaimed Puerto Rico a freely associated U.S. commonwealth under the new constitution; the status was made official that July. Though nationalist agitation for the island’s complete independence from the U.S. was a constant-as were calls for Puerto Rico to become a state-subsequent referendums confirmed the decision to remain a commonwealth.
American citizen born in Puerto Rico faced deportation American citizen Eduardo Caraballo was threatened with deportation after he was detained by police in Chicago
A Chicago man who spent the weekend in jail and faced deportation on suspicion he is in the country illegally said what happened to him illustrates the need for America to change the way it deals with immigration.
Eduardo Caraballo said his self-described nightmare began last week when he was arrested in connection with a stolen car case.
He maintains his innocence and says the car case is still being investigated, but says the real problems began when his mother posted his bail Friday.
Instead of being released, he was told by authorities that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was detaining him because he was an illegal immigrant.
“That’s crazy. Because I was born in Puerto Rico. I never knew that Puerto Rico wasn’t part of the United States,” the 32-year-old said Monday.
Caraballo said he repeatedly told officers that he was born in Puerto Rico and therefore an American citizen. His mother also presented his birth certificate, but despite that and his state-issued ID, officials told him he was facing deportation.
“I’m pretty sure they know that Puerto Ricans are citizens, but just because of the way I look – I have Mexican features – they pretty much assumed that my papers were fake,” he said. “They were making me feel like I can’t voice my opinion or I can’t even speak for myself to let them know that I am a citizen.”
He says officers asked him specific questions about the Caribbean island that he could not answer, mostly because he moved to the mainland when he was 8 months old and has only been back to Puerto Rico once since birth.
Almost three days later, and after his mother contacted Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s office, immigration officials released Caraballo at about 2 p.m. Monday.
And now, Gutierrez, who’s fighting for national immigration reform, wants answers.
“You know what this proves to you? That in Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they’re legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they’re an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government, not state authorities, but the federal government, with all their technology and all their information capacity that they have, could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen. It’s very, very, very dangerous ground to tread,” the Chicago Democrat said.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office declined to answer specific questions about Caraballo’s case, but in a statement released Monday afternoon said that he was released once his citizenship was confirmed.
Caraballo said he is considering legal action and hopes his story is a lesson.
“Immigrations should analyze the way they judge people. They can’t just judge people by their color or their features, by the way they look, they should actually investigate thoroughly, and they should do that before they put the hold on somebody,” he said.