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I read the news that the U.S. Department of Justice has taken steps to consistently condemn the racist language found in the Insular Cases with cautious optimism.

This move away from the indefensible, ugly language of “alien races” and “savage tribes” is long overdue by the federal government, and thanks should be extended to Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Attorney Neil Weare and many others who were instrumental in a recent push from members of Congress to have the USDOJ publicly denounce the Insular Cases.

It would be dishonest, however, to not acknowledge this progress as mostly symbolic - because the USDOJ has also made it clear it will continue to support the foundational legal arguments of the Insular Cases: that the U.S. Constitution does not fully apply to America's territories, those who were born in a territory, and eventual residents of territories.

In my tenure as a Senator, I have supported legislation calling for the Insular Cases to be condemned and overturned, and court cases challenging the unequal treatment of Americans living in U.S. territories like Guam. Similarly, I have testified before the United States Congress that “Congress does not have to wait. This is the opportunity … to propose sweeping legislation to address these inequities, protect our individual cultures, and pursue self-determination. This is the time where we can take this opportunity to move forward.”

This recent development only underscores the need for a direct solution that has been touted by countless courts. The sad fact is the prevailing case doctrine holds that Congress has the power to include - and exclude - the rights granted to the governments and people of the modern-day colonies of the United States.

This very basic legal tenant will be repeated by federal attorneys whenever this issue comes up. On one hand, the USDOJ will condemn the Insular Cases for its use of “repugnant” language, while on the other hand rely on these same cases to argue the Constitution only applies “in part” to territories.

In the coming days, I will be reaching out to Rep. Grijalva, Del. Jim Moylan and other members of Congress to urge them to address this inequality through legislation. That will provide a definitive and, hopefully, permanent solution to the unequal treatment America affords its territories.



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