In recent weeks, the debate over Puerto Rico’s political status has been back on the table after a group of lawmakers reached historic agreement to introduce non-partisan legislation that does not favor a vote on any statute.
What many do not know about this geopolitical situation is that it is framed by legislative precedents considered by specialists to be racist and detrimental to the rights of Puerto Ricans.
The Island cases, rulings from the early 1900s by the majority of judges that legalized racial segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson after Puerto Rico came under U.S. control following the Spanish–American War of 1898. The rulings considered residents of U.S. territories “aliens.” races” and “savage tribes”.
As Federal District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí Explainin 1898, the United States became an empire with overseas possessions, as were the European colonizing powers.
The signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish–American War, determined that the former Spanish territories of Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico “came to fly the American flag.”
“The advent of the 20th century saw the rise of rampant racism and imperialist sentiments toward the inhabitants of newly acquired island possessions,” Gelpí explains in his paper presented in 2010 in Hawaii at the second annual conference of the Honolulu chapter of the bar. federal. Association. “On the other hand, it would no longer be the paradigm of American expansionism but the paradigm to follow. Members of the American Congress and even the President himself have openly expressed their feeling of American superiority towards the inhabitants of the territories.
This sentiment was reflected in the Supreme Court’s constitutional justification of insular affairs between 1901 and 1905. Since then, Congress and the federal government have been authorized to arbitrarily treat Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories as aliens to national purposes and as a state for international purposes. purposes.
For example, Puerto Ricans can be drafted and serve in the U.S. military, but those living on the island cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections or have voting members of Congress, BNC News Explain. The same reasoning has been used to justify disparities in funding for public programs in Puerto Rico, such as Medicaid and food stamps.
Puerto Ricans are “generally exempt from most federal taxes, including income tax, excise duties, and estate and gift taxes,” according to the Justice Department. However, Puerto Ricans pay federal payroll taxes and help fund public programs such as Medicare and Social Security, contributing more than $4 billion a year in federal taxes in the United States.
In light of the injustice, the American Civil Liberties Union, Hispanic Federation, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Equally American joined forces on Tuesday to launch a campaign to undo island affairs.
The campaign to overturn the island cases comes a month after the Supreme Court used them as legal precedent by ruling in an 8-1 vote that it is constitutional to deny federal benefits to elderly and disabled US citizens living in Porto. Rico, although they can access the same benefits if they move to one of the 50 continental states.
“Now is the time for the court to quash the island cases,” Alejandro Ortiz, senior attorney for the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said Tuesday. “They justify the continued maintenance of the American colonies.”