One Size Doesn’t Fit All Territories

“Equally American” lobbyist Neal Weare bemoaned the fact that he could not raise funds for his non-profit to pay his own salary, because his “charity” was not treated as a U.S. based entity in Facebook’s recent Thanksgiving related fundraising campaign.  

The fact that he could not raise funds on Facebook like nonprofits in states is indeed ironic, but not for the reasons Weare cites.  

By fabricating a theory of pan-territorial common interests because territories lack rights equal to states, Weare is actually making it harder for each territory to define its own choices for status resolution based on local democratic self-determination.  

The reality is that territories can never have rights equal to states unless they become states or are incorporated into a state.  Weare is not raising funds to improve territorial status based on actual common interests of all territories under federal law.  Rather, he is milking the territories for money by creating the illusion that territories can and should seek the same rights as states.

In reality, territories can have rights equal to states only by amendment of the Constitution to end federalism as a union of states and make territorial status equal to statehood.  An amendment gave Washington, D.C. the right to vote for representation in the Electoral College that chooses the President. D.C. still wants statehood. This fact demonstrates that anything less than full equality for U.S. citizens in a non-state area in the U.S. does not solve the problem of less than equal citizenship rights.

Someone needs to explain to Weare that Facebook is not the government, so how it treats the territories may not constitute denial of equal citizenship rights under law.  

But that might not stop him from resorting to his favorite fundraising pitch citing racism expressed in the Insular Cases.  Overturning the Insular Cases would not remedy the limited rights of territories. Our natural modern outrage about the Insular Cases does seem to work as a fundraiser.

Puerto Rico, a large and populous territory, has voted for statehood and formally requested statehood from the federal government. Statehood is the best solution for Puerto Rico.

The other territories have not yet requested statehood. Their situation is different from that of Puerto Rico. Since 95% of all the people who live in U.S. territories live in Puerto Rico, it may be tempting to include Puerto Rico in fundraising efforts. But statehood is the solution for Puerto Rico, whether it is the best choice for the other territories or not.

American Samoa has rejected not only statehood but incorporation and even U.S. citizenship in the territory.  The U.S. nationals of that unincorporated territory have the right to citizenship in the states but so far prefer autonomy in local cultural and political life that no other territory has retained, after citizenship was granted in all the other four unincorporated territories.

Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands were authorized by Congress to adopt local constitutions subject to supremacy of federal law.  But that would decentralize powers to political subdivisions within the now more developed territory economies.  So far, local power elites in both territories have persuaded voters to preserve the existing more colonial and anachronistic highly centralized regimes of civil government created by federal territorial law more than a half century ago.

Similarly, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are less than 100 miles apart and have a common history, native language and cultural heritage, so Congress authorized political merger into a single new territory to promote political, social and economic development.  But, again, local political power elites who do not want to decentralize power under a local constitution reuniting the two territories have blocked reunification due to vested interests in the status quo.

Thus, there is no basis in democratic self-determination for Weare and his “Equally American” fundraising scheme based on the illusion that all territories want the same rights and status.  All U.S. citizens can be equally American without having the same political status, unless and until that is achieved through an informed act of self-determination.

Weare wants federal courts to ignore these realities and impose 14th Amendment constitutional citizenship  on all the territories by judicial edict.  But he is not asking the courts to apply the due process and equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment or the federal voting rights and full representation in Congress and the Electoral College allocated only to states under Article I and Article II of the the Constitution. 

That would mean permanent incorporation with the same less than equal rights as unincorporated territories, binding union without a promise much less guarantee of future  statehood, institutionalizing a subclass of less than equal citizenship without the right of self-determination.

Puerto Rico is the only current territory that is integrated into the national political, legal and economic life of the nation and ready for full application of the 14th Amendment and statehood based on democratic self-determination.  Let your legislators know that it’s time for statehood for Puerto Rico.

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