Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Justice Department condemns Supreme Court’s racist ‘Insular Cases’

By 37ci3 Jun3,2024

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has taken new steps to denounce a series of racist Supreme Court decisions that allowed people living in U.S. territories to be treated as second-class citizens a century ago.

In letter Reached by NBC News last week to a group of mostly Democratic lawmakers, Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte went further than the department has previously gone in rejecting rulings relied on by the government in past litigation.

“The Department unequivocally condemns the racist rhetoric and reasoning of the Insular Cases and unequivocally shares your view that such reasoning and rhetoric are incompatible with fundamental American principles of equality, justice, and democracy,” he said.

Uriarte added that the Justice Department has taken internal steps to ensure that attorneys “apply the same approach consistently” across offices.

The Insular Cases were a series of decisions issued shortly after the United States acquired Puerto Rico and other territories in the 1900s. The court said that the rights enjoyed by people in the US mainland did not apply to people in Puerto Rico and other newly acquired territories.

The letter, though the department’s strongest public statement on the issue, stopped short of saying the government would ask the Supreme Court to overturn the cases.

It was a letter in response to a request In April, lawmakers asked the department to publicly disavow any credence to the claims.

“We are pleased with the Justice Department’s move to unequivocally reject the racist doctrine of the Insular Litigation,” said Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, who helped organize the letter. statement.

“This is an important step toward a Supreme Court that finally overturns these discriminatory decisions that have served to justify the denial of equal rights and self-determination to communities of color in U.S. territories for nearly 125 years,” he said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, also welcomed the development, saying it “signals progress for our democracy, the promise of equality before the law and the desire of Democrats to bring balance to our justice system.”

Neil Weare, co-director of Democracy Rights, an advocacy group seeking to undermine the Insular Cases, said it was important for the Justice Department to make a strong public statement.

“This goes beyond what they have previously said in court filings and makes it clear that their policy of dismissing Insular Cases will be enforced at all levels of the department,” he said.

The Insular Cases were full of racist language, with one justice referring to the territories as “inhabited by alien races” who did not adhere to “Anglo-Saxon principles”. Another justice wrote that the United States had a right to “an unknown island of an uncivilized race” without giving it full constitutional protection.

The Supreme Court has so far rejected efforts to overturn the Insular Cases, although two justices, conservative Neil Gorsuch and liberal Sonia Sotomayor, seem open to the idea.

The United States has five territories: Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. With about 3 million people, Puerto Rico is the largest by population.

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By 37ci3

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