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President Woodrow Wilson signs the Jones-Shafroth Act, making Puerto Rico a U.S. territory

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act (1917) on March 2, 1917, giving Puerto Ricans U.S. statutory citizenship. This act also separated Puerto Rico’s government into Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches, and endowed Puerto Ricans with a bill of rights. Additionally, the act established an insular bicameral legislature with 19 elected Senate members and 39 elected House of Representative members. It also stated that Puerto Rico’s Governor and the U.S. Executive branch possessed authorization to veto or override any law enacted by that legislature.

Citizenship under the Jones-Shafroth Act (1917) resulted in mass migration to the U.S. mainland; mostly to New York State. Approximately 42,000 Puerto Ricans migrated to the U.S. during the 1920s. Today, Puerto Rico does not have voting representation in Congress, and Puerto Ricans with residency on the island are not eligible to vote in general elections, only in primaries. Those Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland can register to vote in their respective states.

The Selective Service Act of 1917 followed the Jones-Shafroth Act (1917). This second act permitted the U.S. to draft soldiers, including Puerto Ricans. Approximately 20,000 Puerto Rican service members served in World War I and 65,000 fought in World War II.

A note: There are eight “Jones Acts,” so it’s best to clarify which is which before discussing:

the cabotage Jones Act,

the seafarer’s rights Jones Act,

the Prohibition Jones Law,

the Puerto Rico citizenship Jones Act,

the Philippines government reform Jones Law,

the sugar-related Jones-Costigan Act,

the land-grant universities Bankhead-Jones Act

and the land reform Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act.