Equally American Blog

  • National Civil Rights Organizations Press Biden-Harris DOJ to Condemn Insular Cases

    Twelve national civil rights organizations and Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico are calling on the Biden-Harris Department of Justice to “reject the Insular Cases and the racist assumptions they represent.” In a letter sent on February 10, 2022 they urged Attorney General Merrick Garland and Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar “to immediately cease relying on the Insular Cases in any present or future cases, and to publicly condemn the Insular Cases and the territorial incorporation doctrine.”

  • Racial Justice Series Continues with a Conversation with Former Members of Congress

    Equally American’s Racial Justice Series continues tomorrow as former Members of Congress the Hon. Donna M. Christensen (USVI) and the Hon. Robert Underwood (Guam) join EA President Neil Weare for a virtual conversation on how systemic racism has impacted and continues to impact residents of U.S. territories. Part II of the series, The Left and Right's Blindspot in Systemic Racism: America's Colonies Problem, will take place on Wednesday, January 26, 2022 from 5-6 pm EST (6-7 pm in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 8-9 am on Thursday, January 27th in Guam). More information about the event, including speaker bios and free registration, is available here.

    * A recording of the event is now available here *

  • Case About Birthright Citizenship in U.S. Territories Heads to Supreme Court

    Plaintiffs in Fitisemanu v. United States will take their case to the Supreme Court of the United States after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied their petition for review by the full court earlier this week. Notably, Judges Robert Bacharach and Nancy Moritz dissented to the denial of review in a lengthy and scholarly opinion setting forth the constitutional basis for recognizing a right to citizenship for people born in U.S. territories, and the “exceptional importance” of this case. The Fitisemanu plaintiffs had initially prevailed in their case, with Judge Clark Waddoups ruling at the district court level that Congress did not have the power to deny citizenship to individuals born in U.S. territories. On appeal, a divided panel of the Tenth Circuit reversed 2-1, with each judge writing a separate opinion.

  • Supreme Court Asks What “Equal Justice Under Law” Means in U.S. Territories, Justices Reveal Few Answers

    Yesterday the Supreme Court was asked to consider what four words emblazoned on the front of the Court – “Equal Justice Under Law” – mean for the 3.5 million citizens living in U.S. territories. At issue was whether the denial of Supplemental Security Income benefits to José L. Vaello Madero based solely on his place of residence in Puerto Rico violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Two lower courts ruled favorably for Mr. Vaello Madero, but it was unclear after oral argument whether the Supreme Court would affirm or reverse those decisions.

  • “I am José” Campaign Launched as Supreme Court Considers U.S. v. José L. Vaello Madero

    Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear arguments in United States v. José Luis Vaello Madero, a case that will have broad implications for the 3.5 million citizens living in U.S. territories – 98% of whom are racial or ethnic minorities. Two courts have already ruled in the case that the denial of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to citizens in the territories based solely on their place of residence violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. It is estimated that about 450,000 citizens in the territories stand to receive SSI benefits if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Mr. Vaello Madero. Countless others are forced to live in the states, since moving home to the territory they are from would mean losing their benefits. In short, Mr. Vaello Madero’s story is the story of so many thousands of others whose lives have been fundamentally altered by these discriminatory federal policies. Equally American is working to elevate these individual stories through its new “I am José” campaign, which features faces and voices from each of the other territories that have been impacted by the denial of SSI.

  • SSI and Medicaid Expansion for U.S. Territories Included in Build Back Better Draft Text

    Earlier today Congress released the draft text of the proposed budget reconciliation bill, including what would be historic expansions of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and Medicaid to residents of U.S. territories. If Congress acts based on this draft language, it could mean monthly SSI checks of up to $794 directly to more than 300,000 of the most vulnerable residents of U.S. territories. The proposed Medicaid expansion would bring these programs much closer to full parity, greatly expanding healthcare availability for low-income territorial residents.

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