Democratic Lawmakers Urge Justice Department to Reject Racist 'Insular Cases' Rulings

Lawmakers push Justice Dept to condemn racist "Insular Cases" rulings that denied full rights to U.S. territories, seeking to address legacy of discrimination in U.S. law and policy.

Muhammad Jawad
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Democratic Lawmakers Urge Justice Department to Reject Racist 'Insular Cases' Rulings

Democratic Lawmakers Urge Justice Department to Reject Racist 'Insular Cases' Rulings

A group of mostly Democratic lawmakers, seek, racist, cases, limited from the Senate and House of Representatives are pushing the Justice Department to condemn the racist "Insular Cases" rulings from the early 1900s that established a legal framework treating people living in U.S. territories as second-class citizens. The lawmakers, along with civil rights groups and legal associations, have sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Justice Department to unequivocally reject the discriminatory doctrine of territorial incorporation established by these cases.

The Insular Cases, influenced by racist ideologies, denied full constitutional rights to people living in U.S. territories. The rulings referred to these territories as "lands inhabited by alien races" and stated that the U.S. had the right to acquire territories without conferring full constitutional protections to the people living there.

While the Supreme Court has been reluctant to distance itself from these precedents, some justices have expressed concerns about the rulings. The Justice Department has made statements distancing itself from the Insular Cases but has not expressly lawmakers, seek them.

The letter, signed by 43 lawmakers including the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, as well as two Republican delegates from U.S. territories, is now calling on the Justice Department to go further and unequivocally condemn these racist decisions. They are pushing for a stance similar to how the department has previously admitted error for its role in the Korematsu v. United States ruling that upheld the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Why this matters: The push to reject the Insular Cases represents an important step in addressing the legacy of racism and discrimination in U.S. law and policy towards its territories. The unequal treatment of U.S. citizens living in territories has long been a contentious issue, and a clear stance from the Justice Department could have significant implications for the rights and status of these Americans.

In their letter, the lawmakers, seek that the Justice Department's rejection of the Insular Cases would "send a clear message that the Department will no longer rely on this shameful and racist chapter of our history." They argue that it is long past time for the federal government to make clear that the racist logic of the Insular Cases has no place in U.S. law and policy.

Key Takeaways

  • Democratic lawmakers seek Justice Dept. to condemn "Insular Cases" racist rulings.
  • Insular Cases denied full constitutional rights to U.S. territories, referring to "alien races".
  • Justice Dept. has distanced itself from Insular Cases but not explicitly condemned them.
  • Lawmakers urge Justice Dept. to unequivocally reject the Insular Cases' discriminatory doctrine.
  • Rejecting Insular Cases could have significant implications for rights of U.S. citizens in territories.