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Are Puerto Ricans US Citizens?

Yes, Puerto Ricans Are US Citizens — and So Are Residents of These 3 Other Territories

Hurricane Maria's devastating impact on Puerto Rico is almost beyond words. The island of 3.4 million people was hit by the Category 4 storm on Sept. 20, but it still has almost no power and no way to communicate — and it might remain that way for months. President Trump maintains that his administration is doing a "really good job" responding to requests from the US territory, but celebrities like singer Marc Anthony have called him out for being fixated on NFL players taking a knee to protest racial injustice in the US and spending far too little time on the devastation in Puerto Rico. In his tweet, Anthony reminded Trump that Puerto Ricans are US citizens — a fact that is apparently lost on many Americans.

According to a poll by Morning Consult, of 2,200 American adults surveyed, only 54 percent knew that people born in Puerto Rico are US citizens. And it's not just Puerto Rico; anyone born in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or the US Virgin Islands is also a US citizen. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the US, meaning that while people there are granted US citizenship, they don't get to vote in elections and can only send a nonvoting representative to Congress. In short, any natural disaster or other event that occurs in any of these places should serve as a call to action for the American government to provide assistance.

In that same Morning Consult poll, a group of American adults were told that Puerto Ricans are US citizens, and as a result, 68 percent believed the country needed more aid to rebuild and recover. But when a group wasn't told beforehand, only 64 percent believed in the same sentiment. It might explain Trump's lackluster response to Puerto Rico's situation and why Hillary Clinton said in a Sirius XM interview on Sept. 25, "I'm not sure he knows that Puerto Ricans are American citizens."

Trump has since stated, on Sept. 26, that he will visit Puerto Rico next week, and he spoke about what the administration, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will do to help the island.

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