After President Obama’s appointment of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, many in the media referred to Judge Sotomayor as the daughter of immigrant parents. However, this characterization appears to be incorrect.
Judge Sotomayor’s parents are Puerto Rican. Puerto Rico is a self-governing “unincorporated territory” of the United States, and has been since the Spanish-American War. Since 1917, people born in Puerto Rico have automatically acquired U.S. citizenship. Oddly, they cannot vote in federal elections so long as they reside in Puerto Rico, but they can vote when they reside in the incorporated United States.
Because Judge Sotomayor’s parents appear to have been born in Puerto Rico, they were U.S. citizens at birth. As such, they weren’t truly immigrants to the United States. The United States and Puerto Rico have very different cultures, and I’m sure the experiences they had in the United States were similar in many ways to Spanish-speaking immigrants. However, I would argue that a U.S. citizen at birth cannot be characterized as an immigrant to his or her home country.