The Jones Act clarified the status of Puerto Ricans after the United States acquired Puerto Rico, along with Cuba and the Philippines, in 1898 after its military victory over Spain. As inhabitants of an incorporated territory, Puerto Ricans could participate in U.S. elections and send a nonvoting representative to Congress.
As in the Philippines, the Puerto Rican independence movement against Spain was quashed with its acquisition by the United States. In contrast to Puerto Ricans, Filipinos did not gain U.S. citizenship and were categorized instead as “U.S. nationals,” which allowed them the right to migrate within U.S. territory but not to vote. Puerto Ricans continued to agitate for greater autonomy and independence from the United States and gained the status of a commonwealth in 1952.
CHAP. 145.-An Act To provide a civil government for Porto Rico, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the provisions of this Act shall apply to the island of Porto Rico, and to the adjacent islands included belonging to the United States, and waters of those islands; and the name Porto Rico as used in this Act shall be held to include not only the island of that name but all the adjacent islands as aforesaid.