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José L. Vaello Madero is having his day before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Vaello Madero. But whether the words “Equal Justice Under Law” that are emblazoned on the Supreme Court will apply with equal force to him and the more than 3.5 million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories remains to be seen.

Mr. Vaello Madero is in court because the U.S. Department of Justice sued him to recover $28,081 in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) the federal government paid him after he moved from New York to Puerto Rico. After his move he was the same person facing the same disabilities and economic hardships. But as a resident of Puerto Rico, he no longer qualified for SSI.

This isn’t just wrong, it’s unconstitutional.

Unfortunately, the story of Mr. Vaello Madero is not unique. It is estimated that about 450,000 U.S. citizens living in the territories would qualify for SSI absent discriminatory federal laws. Learn more about their stories here.

Our “I Am José” campaign seeks to show how this ongoing discrimination impacts real people's lives. In doing so, our goal is to bring together citizens living in each of the territories so that the federal officials who make are making literally life and death decisions over these citizens' lives can see their inherent humanity and dignity.

As the Supreme Court hears oral argument, Congress is also close to including SSI for the territories in the pending reconciliation bill in order to deliver on promises Joe Biden made as a candidate last year, and as President last June.

You can help press the Supreme Court, Congress, and the President by posting on social media in support of Mr. Vaello Madero and the thousands of other citizens denied SSI in the territories with the hashtag #IamJose or #WeAreEquallyAmerican. 

All three branches of the federal government must act to ensure that all citizens enjoy equal rights, wherever they live.

Learn more about individuals in each of the territories whose lives have been impacted by SSI discrimination by clicking here

Learn more about Mr. Vaello Madero's case, including court filings, policy studies, and media coverage, by clicking here.

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