In 2021, a resolution was introduced to undo a series of Supreme Court decisions rendered in the early 1900s which limit the extension of constitutional rights to certain U.S. territories. The resolution would recognize equal rights for all residents in these places. However, it would not change the legal outcome of the prior Supreme Court rulings.
“This bipartisan resolution presents an historic opportunity for the House to reject the racist Insular Cases and their doctrine of ‘territorial incorporation,’ which established what has been criticized as a doctrine of ‘separate and unequal’ status for the 3.6 million residents of U.S. territories – 98% of whom are people of color,” wrote the groups.
“While both liberal and conservative Supreme Court Justices have recently criticized the Insular Cases as ‘odious and wrong’ and ‘rest[ing] on a rotten foundation,’ the Supreme Court has repeatedly passed on opportunities to reconsider these controversial cases.”
The Supreme Court had two opportunities to challenge these opinions and ultimately turned them down directly. In October 2021, the high court turned down a chance to rule on a case involving an American Samoan U.S. national who sought U.S. citizenship. Then in the following month, they refused to hear another case involving a Puerto Rican teachers’ organization looking for equal treatment regarding retirement benefits. The advocates led by the ACLU feel that if the House passed this resolution, it would raise more awareness.
“With the Supreme Court recently dodging two opportunities to overrule the Insular Cases, it is more important than ever for the House to make clear that the racist Insular Cases and the colonial framework they established should have no part in the United States today,” said Neil Weare, President, and Founder of Equally American, a group that advocates for equality for residents of the territories.