Almost Citizens lays out the tragic story of how the United States denied Puerto Ricans full citizenship following annexation of the island in 1898. As America became an overseas empire, a handful of remarkable Puerto Ricans debated with US legislators, presidents, judges, and others over who was a citizen and what citizenship meant. This struggle caused a fundamental shift in constitution law: away from the post-Civil War regime of citizenship, rights, and statehood and toward doctrines that accommodated racist imperial governance. Erman's gripping account shows how, in the wake of the Spanish-American War, administrators, lawmakers, and presidents together with judges deployed creativity and ambiguity to transform constitutional meaning for a quarter of a century. The result is a history in which the United States and Latin America, Reconstruction and empire, and law and bureaucracy intertwine.
Table of Contents
Introduction; 1. 1898: 'The constitutional lion in the path'; 2. The Constitution and the new US expansion: debating the status of the Islands; 3. 'We are naturally Americans': Federico Degetau and Santiago Iglesias pursue citizenship; 4. 'American aliens': Isabel Gonzalez, Domingo Collazo, Federico Degetau, and the Supreme Court, 1902–1905; 5. Reconstructing Puerto Rico, 1904–1909; 6. The Jones Act and the long path to collective naturalization; Conclusion.