I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess you probably didn’t spend December 24 snuggled up on the couch, hot toddy in hand, basking in the warming glow of C-SPAN.
But if you did tune in to C-SPAN’s Washington Journal during the wee hours of Christmas Eve day, you were one of the lucky few to catch NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten confront a confounded caller who wanted to to know why Puerto Ricans moving to the United States aren’t being vetted.
“I would like to ask the guest what his opinion of the migration that is coming from Puerto Rico due to their financial chaos,” Brian from Washington state asked. “One thousand Puerto Ricans a week, not considered immigrants, but coming to the United States as U.S. Citizens with no vetting. That just seems like something that is not being discussed at all.”
As Brian rightly noted, Puerto Rico’s economic instability has, in fact, thrown the U.S. territory into uncharted financial waters. However, Gjelten, who was on hand to discuss his book A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story, wasted no time in dousing Brian’s xenophobia-tinged vetting concerns.
“The reason it is not being discussed is because they are not immigrants,” Gjelten calmly explained. “Puerto Rico is not a state, but Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.”
Djelten went on to compare Puerto Rican migrating to the U.S. to people who fled the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression or African Americans who moved out of southern states as part of the Great Migration.
“We don’t vet people that move from one state to another, from one part of America to another,” Djelten concluded. “That’s their right as Americans to move.”