Guam senators on Friday adopted Resolution 56-36, rejecting the Insular Cases
doctrine, which has been the basis of unequal treatment of citizens of the U.S. territories including Guam, Northern Marianas, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island.
“For too long, the Insular Cases have been used to justify unequal treatment of the territories solely by reason of our geographical residence. The rejection of the Insular Cases is needed to resolve this undemocratic status quo, and I will continue to advocate for the People of Guam to ensure we have parity in vital federal programs, such as SSI and Medicaid,” said Vice Speaker Tina Muña Barnes, main author of Resolution 56-36.
Muna Barnes said acknowledging the inequity is just the first step in correcting the injustices of the past.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Sens. Clynton Ridgell, Jose Terlaje, Joe S. San Agustin, Frank F. Blas Jr, and Mary Camacho Torres was passed by the Guam Legislature.
Resolution 56-36 also expresses support for House Resolution 279, which acknowledges that the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in the Insular Cases and the "territorial incorporation doctrine" are contrary to the nation's most basic constitutional and democratic principles, rests on racial views and stereotypes that have long been rejected and should be rejected as having no place in constitutional law.
“I want to thank the Guam legislature for supporting H.Res.279. I look forward to continuing working with local partners to advance equity in the U.S. territories by rejecting the racist legacy of the Insular Cases, and expanding access to federal programs and extending full voting rights to residents of U.S. territories,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and sponsor of House Resolution 279 introduced in the U.S. House in March.
At the recommendation of the legal experts who testified at the public hearing, the resolution further calls upon the U.S. Congress to exercise their plenary powers and begin a binding political status reconciliation process that is tailored to each unincorporated territory with the residents of each territory being a party to these discussions.
"As I have said repeatedly, this is just the first step. Many of my colleagues have asked what's next?" Muna Barnes said. "What's next is we call on Congress to further exercise their plenary powers to preserve the Chamorro Land Trust, Section 30, and other programs we enjoy today while ensuring territorial parity by extending full access to SSI, Medicaid, SNAP and TANF." Muna Barnes said as long as the Insular Cases endure, the territories remain in a political limbo. "We know all too well that justice will not be handed to us--we must demand it," she said.
(Read the June issue of the Pacific Island Times for more information)