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Online petition urges Biden administration to nix Insular Cases

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The civil rights group Equally American has launched an online petition asking the Biden administration to reject the Insular Cases, a series of century-old decisions that established a colonial framework of “separate and unequal” status for people living in U.S. territories.

Describing the Insular Cases as "racist," Equally American said the decisions have resulted in the disenfranchisement of 3.6 million people who live in five U.S. territories, who "continue to be treated like second-class citizens, while at the same time being denied their right to self-determination and decolonization."

In an earlier decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the U.S. Congress may deny U.S. territories federal welfare programs such as Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid and SNAP.

In separate dissenting opinions, Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the Insular Cases “both odious and wrong” while Justice Neil Gorsuch said the decisions “rest on a rotten foundation.” Both declared it was time to finally overrule the Insular Cases.

The U.S. Justice Department has until Aug. 29 to either support or oppose calls to overrule the Insular Cases in its upcoming response to a petition for a review of the Fitisemanu v. United States case related to birthright citizenship in U.S. territories.

The petition for certiorari asks the Supreme Court, in part, “whether the Insular Cases should be overruled.”

The Biden-Harris Justice Department relied on the Insular Cases to argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that Congress has the power to deny citizenship to people born in any U.S. territory.'

Earlier this month, the Fitisemanu petitioners, through their lead counsel at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, sent a letter to the U.S. solicitor general “to urge the government to join petitioners in asking the Supreme Court to finally and formally overturn the Insular Cases," citing "overwhelming legal, policy, and moral grounds to do so.”


Twenty-three members of Congress also wrote to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urging them to “reject the Insular Cases and the racist colonial framework they invented.” A dozen civil rights groups have also called on the Justice Department “to reject the Insular Cases and the racist assumptions they represent.”

“If you think the Biden-Harris Justice Department shouldn’t be relying on the Insular Cases to argue people from U.S. territories don’t have the same rights as people from other parts of the United States, we’d like to hear from you,” said Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American, and co-counsel in Fitisemanu v. United States.

“It is simply shocking that in the year 2022 the Justice Department has yet to formally condemn the Insular Cases, which justified denying residents of U.S. territories constitutional rights because of ‘differences of races," he added.

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