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“Almost citizens.” What does that even mean? It’s like being “kind of pregnant,” isn’t it? In other words, nonsense. Citizenship isn’t an “almost” kind of thing. It’s all or nothing. Unless, I suppose, the word “almost” is used in a simple temporal sense – as in, “Our naturalization ceremony is tomorrow. We’re almost citizens! Yay!” There, the phrase “almost citizens” makes sense. Otherwise not. Right?

Wrong. “Almost citizens,” in a sense as ambiguous as it sounds, is what Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U S Constitution, and Empire is about. “Almost citizens” describes what Puerto Ricans were from 1898, when the United States annexed the island, until 1917, when Congress collectively naturalized its people by statute. “Almost citizens,” in a different but equally ambiguous sense, captures what the people of Puerto Rico somehow remained even after they became U.S. citizens in 1917. And “almost citizens” arguably defines what they still are today.


Constitutional Law | Law

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Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire by Sam Erman, Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2019, pp. xv, 275, cloth $49.99, paper $29.99.