Congress to hold historic hearing on insular cases resolution

Posted on May 13 2021

U.S. Congress will hold an historic, first-ever congressional hearing today focused exclusively on the Insular Cases, a series of Supreme Court cases grounded in racial discrimination that established a doctrine of “separate and unequal” for residents of U.S. territories.  

The hearing will start at 1pm EDT (Thursday at 3am here in the CNMI and Guam), with the House Natural Resources Committee considering House Resolution 279, which seeks to condemn the Insular Cases as both contrary to the Constitution and for their racist underpinnings. Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American, is among the witnesses who have been invited to testify. Equally American advocates for equality and civil rights for the 3.5 million American citizens living in U.S. territories.

“I applaud [committee chair Rep. Raul M.] Grijalva for holding this historic hearing, and I look forward to testifying in support of this bipartisan resolution,” said Weare. “This resolution is an important step toward turning the page on the Insular Cases and the colonial framework they established.” 

The House Resources Committee released the following statements from co-sponsors of H. Res. 279: «The Insular Cases belong to a very dark chapter of U.S. history when the doctrines of  ‘separate but equal’ and attitudes about racial inferiority explicitly defined the country’s laws,” said Natural Resources Committee chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). “We cannot erase this harmful past, but as legislators, we have an obligation to ensure that its legacy does not extend into the future,” he added. 

“The Insular Cases, decided in 1901 by the same Supreme Court that upheld segregation laws, have no place in modern day America,” said Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) . “In these cases, the Supreme Court calls people living in U.S. territories ‘alien’ and ‘savage and restless people,’ antiquated notions of racial inferiority that should not be the basis of any contemporary court decisions. Our resolution recognizes these racist and imperialist assumptions for what they are. It rejects the Insular Cases and affirms the importance of equal rights for Americans everywhere, even in the U.S. insular areas.”

“The Insular Cases go well beyond the ability of citizens in the territories to vote,” said Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) . “We pay billions of dollars in federal taxes, and yet residents of U.S. territories are denied access to critical federal programs and support. Otherwise eligible citizens in the territories are denied Supplemental Security Income, leaving our most vulnerable seniors and disabled people to fend for themselves. Federal programs, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Child Tax Credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, are either capped or denied altogether. This discrimination against residents of the territories must end now.”

“These last vestiges of blatant racism in governance and interpretation of the law, used today to validate the unequal treatment of Americans in territories, are staring us in the face, daring us to bring them down,” said Delegate Michael San Nicolas (D-GU) . “The question of our time is: will we blink?”

The hearing will include two panels of experts and, besides Plaskett and Weare, others who were invited to testify are Dr. Daniel Immerwahr, professor, Department of History, Northwestern University; Guam vice speaker Sen. Tina Muña Barnes; Prof. Rose Cuison-Villazor, professor of Law and Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar, Rutgers University; Dr. Peter S. Watson, president and CEO, the Dwight Group, LLC and former White House director of Asian Affairs, National Security Council; and American Samoa Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Va’alele Ale.

The House Natural Resources Committee will meet virtually at 1pm EDT, with the proceedings livestreamed at and 5555995237808240. (PR)

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