When Rep. Raul Grijalva and some colleagues wrote to the Department of Justice to protest the Insular Cases, they were taking a new path to an old destination. Many people have called over the years for the Supreme Court to overturn the cases or for Congress to repudiate them. Neither has happened. But the DOJ responded to the letter, which asked the Department of Justice to condemn the case decisions.

Emphatic agreement

“The Department emphatically agrees with you that the racist language and logic of the Insular Cases deserve no place in our law,” said the letter from the DOJ. “The Department unequivocally condemns the racist rhetoric and reasoning of the Insular Cases, and unambiguously shares your view that such reasoning and rhetoric are irreconcilable with foundational American principles of equality, justice, and democracy.”

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte, who signed the letter, did not say that the DOJ intended to ask the Supreme Court to revisit the cases. However, Grijalva said, “We are pleased with the Justice Department’s action to unequivocally reject the racist doctrine of the Insular Cases…This is an important step towards the Supreme Court finally overruling these discriminatory decisions, which have served to justify the denial of equal rights and self-determination to communities of color in U.S. territories for nearly 125 years.”

The Insular Cases

The Insular Cases are a set of Supreme Court decisions from the early 20th century. They are decisions about the insular — that is, island — territories that had recently come into the possession of the United States. The most essential, ongoing effects of these cases are the doctrine of incorporation, which said that some territories were part of the United States and some simply belonged to the U.S., and the decision that the U.S. Constitution did not fully apply in these territories.

The Insular Cases don’t say that the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico can’t vote in presidential elections, have no senators or voting Members of the House, or that Puerto Rico shouldn’t get the same federal benefits as the states. They do, however, say that Puerto Rico is not protected by the Constitution. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights concluded that this decision had many negative consequences for Puerto Rico.

Now what?

The Supreme Court has had several opportunities to revisit the Insular Cases and has chosen not to do so. Bills calling for the reversal of the Insular Cases have been introduced in Congress, but have not so far passed.



2 Responses

  1. Bravo for our US Justice Department that is now historically agaist the racist doctrine of the US Supreme Court Insular Cases which discriminates against fellow US Citizens-US Veterans in the US Territory of Puerto Rico that has more US Citizens-US Veterans than 21 States.
    +• Insular Cases (1901-1925+ based on racism)-states–Puerto Rico is an “unincorporated US Territory; more foreign than domestic, belongs to, but, is not part of the US (soil)…”– resulting in a permanent “Separate and Un-Equal Status”/ 2d Class US Citizenship which goes against American values; a Representative Democracy! (Needs to be revoked.)

    –This nonsensical/unjust Legal gibberish (US Supreme Court sustained) are double standards NOT applied to other US Territories before PR; isn’t in US Constitution; are based on Racism by same Court of “Plessy vs Ferguson”…; condemned as unconstitutional by Justice Marshall, Gorsuch, Sotomayor, and many Others (US Justice Dept…) who support revoking them.

    The great Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi should order the PR Justice Department to be more active; take Action to defend, on the Legal Field, fellow US Citizens-US Veterans on Equal Civil Rights; End of Federal undemocratic control of US Territory of Puerto Rico.

  2. TO: US Congress; US President; US Federal/Supreme Court; US Citizens-Patriots
    EQUAL US Citizenship for ALL; END PR’s Federal UNDEMOCRATIC Status! (Summary)
    Since 1898 (for over 125+ years), the Federal Government has kept the US Territory of Puerto Rico (PR)-(with more US Citizens than 21 States) under undemocratic control (with NO Federal “consent of the governed”) as we demand Equal Rights-Fairness for all “WE THE PEOPLE”; revocation of unjust Laws; a NON-Territorial Status!

    Focus on FACTS–Today, millions of 2d class US Citizens-US Veterans (part of “We the People”) in PR have—
    NO Vote for US President; NO just Representation in US Congress; NO Parity in Federal Laws, Programs, or Funding (like for Veterans, Social Security, MEDICARE, MEDICAID, Infrastructure, Education, SSI, and other programs) that other US Citizens fully get; NO permanent statutory US Citizenship (even if moving to a State)…!

    “WE THE PEOPLE come first!”
    Plus, the Federal Government unfairly controls PR’s Borders, Currency, Laws, Security, Economy, Trade, etc.—under the old Territorial Clause (of 1787); unjust racist Insular Cases (of 1901-1925+); other biased Laws—where, incongruently, the US Constitution is not fully applied to US Citizens-US Veterans in Puerto Rico!
    “Equality for a more perfect UNION!”

    Besides, Puerto Ricans face a magna CRISIS; Exodus to the States–which major ROOT components are: Jobs, Economy, Security, Infrastructure, and unfair Territorial Status—where each PART affects the other. The Federal undemocratic Territorial status affects everything; brings instability…; ties PR’s Hands to fairly compete-grow the Economy; limits progress; goes against our US Democratic core values & principles; is Un-American!

    “The Federal Government should be the Servant of ALL the People; NOT the Master of some!”
    This is a Patriotic just cause! The People with Equal US Citizenship/ Rights come first, not a “separate & unequal” biased Status! In our US Republic, the power should reside with all “We the People” (made up by Individuals)–per our Declaration of Independence that calls for “Consent of the Governed”; noble US Constitution that calls for Equal Rights-Fairness, and a Republican form of Government or a Representative Democracy!

    “NO Federal VOTE or just Representation = NO Democracy or a Tyranny of a Majority!”
    Our Federal Government can end this unjust inequity now, but, has not done so! It, incongruently doesn’t act to end PR’s Federal undemocratic Territorial Status; or amend/ revoke unjust-unequal Laws that limit Progress. Instead, some generalize; politically distort; provide biased/racist EXCUSES that blame the Victim; create double standards not applied to Other Citizens-resulting in confusion & stalemate that perpetuates Federal subjugation!

    “Silence to discrimination; supports injustice!”
    US Citizens in PR have voted to END the Territorial-Colonial Status, per local Plebiscites (2012, 2017 & 2020) where Statehood won; Independence got only 2-5% of the Vote… Puerto Ricans have proven loyalty to our US; cherish their US Citizenship! Yet, Congress doesn’t do Right for Equal Citizenship!
    FIX: The Federal Government must ensure Equal US Citizenship-Rights for all “We the People”; END Federal undemocratic control of PR through a PR Plebiscite on viable Non-Territorial Options which only are:
    STATEHOOD vs INDEPENDENCE (Without or With a Free Association Pact)

    Our US (a diverse Union of Sovereign States) is the best in the World—where each State complements each other; is stronger than by itself …! UNITED, under US Constitution/Flag, brings more Progress–for the Good of All!

    “En la UNIÓN está la Fuerza!”
    Only Statehood guarantees a permanent statutory US Citizenship (even if residing in a State)! Thus, all statutory US Citizens have a Stake in the Fight as our US Congress must also, protect them in any Plebiscite!

    Puerto Ricans Sacrifice & Contribute to our diverse USA since 1513!
    Hispanic-US Puerto Ricans (PR) are about 9m strong (most live in the States-Florida) as they are integrated; sacrifice, and loyally contribute (in all fields of endeavor) to our USA; have patriotically shed sweat, blood, and tears for our US Flag (WWI; WW-II; Korea; Vietnam; Global War on Terrorism). PR serves as a Strategic/Tactical Defense Outpost-protecting the South East-Southern approach to our USA–counter-acting, in the Caribbean/other places- threats to our National Security (Chinese, Russians, Terrorists, Narco, and Other bad Actors).

    Also, PR- serves as a Commercial, Security, & Diplomatic Bridge to South America; has a better GDP than 14 States; pays more Federal taxes than 6 States; is a US Market that creates about a million US Jobs as they have restructured their Debt; their Economy is now growing, etc. Their Ancestors (1st Governor of PR) came from PR to Florida (in 1513)-107 years before the Pilgrims; others fought in the US War of Independence (1776); brought Christianity and other good things to our now USA.

    Hispanic-Puerto Ricans are being treated unjustly by their Federal Government-Legislative, Executive & Judicial-that, at times, misinterpret our US Constitution that today, WE OWN! Plus, some Politicians say: “All People are Equal” but, mean: “Some People (in power) are more Equal than Others”! In our US Republic– the power should reside with “a Government of the People, by the People, and for the People” (President Lincoln)!
    “Patriots call for EQUALITY; FAIRNESS; JUSTICE!”
    You can’t have both ways (either support Equality or discrimination)! THE TIME IS NOW for Civic ACTION: demand our Federal Government ensures Equal US Citizenship-Civil Rights; a Representative Democracy for all:
    1. Short Term-Let the People VOTE-Do a PR Plebiscite on properly defined/viable Non-Territorial Options:
    *STATEHOOD-MEANS: Admission to our diverse “UNION of STATES”– under US Constitution/ Laws/ Democracy; EQUAL US Citizenship with full Rights, Benefits, and Responsibilities; with PR-STATE Identity, Constitution, Flag, Sovereignty… as other States & other US Citizens have…
    *INDEPENDENCE- MEANS: Puerto Rico National Sovereignty; PR Constitution/Laws, PR Citizenship…; with loss of US Constitution & statutory US Citizenship, Rights, and Benefits…
    *INDEPENDENCE with Free Association PACT-MEANS: Puerto Rico National Sovereignty; PR Constitution/ Laws, PR Citizenship…; with loss of US Constitution & statutory US Citizenship, Rights, and Benefits… But, with a negotiated PACT between Independent Nations on Terms (like trade, defense, etc.) that can be terminated by either side.
    2. Revoke un-just Laws (like the racist “Insular Cases”, 1920 Jones Act…); Incorporate Puerto Rico.
    3. Amend US Constitution (USC); adopt: “US Citizens’ Equal Rights-Protection Clause” that treats all US Citizens equally-no matter the residency, under our noble US Flag! (Enclosed Draft)
    4. Revoke or Amend the “Territorial Clause” with a “Status” limit; more rights, etc. (Enclosed Draft)
    UNITED-with Truth, Reason, and Civic Action for the Good of All-Family, USA, and Humanity!
    (DENNIS O. FREYTES (MPA, MHR, BBA)-FL Veterans Hall of Fame; Community Servant Leader)
    –SUPPORT/EDUCATE/CONTACT: MEDIA; US House: https://www.house.gov/representatives
    US Senate: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm
    US President: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

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