ACLU Insular Cases Letter

Document Date: November 25, 2019

In this letter, the ACLU outlines support for H.Res. 641, which rejects the use of the Insular Cases in current and future cases, and urges Members of Congress to cosponsor the resolution. The Insular Cases are a line of Supreme Court cases from 1901 to 1922 that limit the extension of constitutional rights to certain U.S. territories. As explained in the letter, those decisions were based on expressly racist assumptions about non-white residents in the territories at the time in places like Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. Almost 120 years later, the Constitution still applies only in part in U.S. island territories despite that most of their native-born residents are U.S. citizens. While the Supreme Court has limited the Insular Cases’ reach and stressed that they should not be expanded, courts continue to consider and cite them in cases for the overstated proposition that only “fundamental” rights apply in the territories.