WASHINGTON D.C.—The full Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. Congress, led by vice chair Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), will hold a legislative hearing on H. Res. 279, the “Insular Cases Resolution,” this Wednesday, May 12, at 1pm Eastern time (3am, Thursday, CNMI time).
H.R. 279, which recognizes that the legal arguments used to deny rights and benefits to citizens living in U.S. territories are based on the discriminatory and unconstitutional principle of “separate but equal,” was introduced by committee chair Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and has bipartisan support.
Specifically, H.R. 279 seeks to acknowledge that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in the Insular Cases are contrary to the text and history of the United States Constitution, rest on racial views and stereotypes from the era of Plessy v. Ferguson that have long been rejected, and should be rejected as having no place in United States constitutional law.
“The insular cases belong to a very dark chapter of U.S. history, when doctrines of ‘separate and unequal’ and attitudes about racial inferiority explicitly defined the country’s laws,” said Grijalva last week in a statement to the Guam Legislature. “We cannot erase this harmful past, but as legislators we have an obligation to make sure its legacy does not extend into the future.”
Despite its antiquated reasoning, the territorial incorporation doctrine resulting from the Insular Cases continues to be cited by federal courts to this day as justification to deny territory residents access to federal programs, fair taxation, and voting rights. Though this resolution would not overturn the decisions in the Insular Cases, this historic resolution would establish that the House of Representatives formally believes they should not be treated as precedent.
Invited witnesses include Rep. Stacey E. Plaskett (D-V.I.); Dr. Daniel Immerwahr, professor, Department of History, Northwestern University; Neil Weare, president, Equally American; vice Speaker Tina Muña Barnes, Guam Legislature; Rose Cuison-Villazor, professor of Law and Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar, Rutgers University.
Watch the hearing at: https://bit.ly/3bc4C1l (Facebook) or https://youtu.be/_ZYBMHLn1mM (YouTube).
Last week, the Guam Legislature held an historic public hearing in support of H.R. 279 that condemned the Insular Cases as rooted in racial animus that established an unprecedented colonial framework for inhabitants of Guam and other U.S. territories.
The hearing brought together an array of current and former elected officials, national and international legal experts, and community activists for a wide-ranging conversation on the importance of finally turning the page on the Insular Cases as a way to help bring an end to Guam’s colonial status. The hearing focused on the Guam Legislature’s Resolution 56-36, introduced by Guam’s vice speaker Tina Muña Barnes and a bipartisan group of five other senators.
Weare was one of the experts invited to testify. “We appreciate vice speaker Muña Barnes efforts to make Guam a leader in pushing back against the Insular Cases,” Weare said. “The Guam Legislature’s actions here should serve as a model for other territorial and even state legislatures to condemn the Insular Cases and the ongoing second-class treatment faced by the 3.5 million residents of U.S. territories—98% of whom are racial or ethnic minorities.”
Guam Gov. Lourdes “Lou” Leon Guerrero and CNMI Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) submitted written testimonies in support of the resolutions that were read into the record. (PR)