DOJ pressed for equality in US territories

Posted on Mar 15 2021


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, and 12 of his House colleagues, wrote Attorney General Merrick Garland last Thursday asking the U.S. Department of Justice to stop defending federal statutes that arbitrarily deny equal treatment to U.S. citizens in the territories in a range of federal programs, including Supplemental Security Income. SSI is a vital safety net which protects low-income Americans who are aged, blind, or disabled from extreme poverty.

Equally American issued the following statement in support of this important letter:

“I hope this congressional letter will encourage the Biden DOJ to take the position that no otherwise eligible American should be denied SSI simply because of where they live,” said Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American, a nonpartisan public interest organization that works to advance equality and voting rights in U.S. territories. 

“There is no rational reason why Americans in those territories should be treated differently than their peers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands, who are all eligible for SSI benefits. This discrimination is not just unfair; it is unconstitutional,” Weare added.

The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of arbitrarily excluding otherwise eligible Americans living in the territories from the SSI program. United States v. Vaello-Madero will decide whether such discrimination violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. The Biden DOJ must now decide whether to continue defending the challenged discrimination.

“Equally American applauds Chairman Grijalva and his House colleagues for taking this stand, and we join them in urging the Biden DOJ to discontinue defending the discrimination at issue in Vaello-Madero, just as DOJ has recently done in an array of other cases brought by the prior Administration,” Weare added. (PR)

Press Release
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