US House Committee on Natural Resources to hold hearing on Insular Cases resolution

by May 11, 2021Congress0 comments

On May 12, 2021, the United States House Committee on Natural Resources will hold its first-ever hearing 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 US territories.  The hearing will start at 1:00 pm EDT, committee considering HRes 279, which seeks to condemn the Insular Cases as contrary to the Constitution and for their racist underpinnings.

“I applaud Chair Grijalva for holding this historic hearing, and I look forward to testifying in support of this bipartisan resolution,” stated Neil Weare, President and Founder of Equally American, which advocates for equality and civil rights for the 3.5 million American citizens living in US territories. “This resolution is an important step towards 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) of Arizona. “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 Camacho Sablan (D) of the Northern Mariana Islands. “In these cases, the Supreme Court calls people living in US 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 US insular areas.”

“The Insular Cases go well beyond the ability of citizens in the territories to vote,” added Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D) of the US Virgin Islands. “We pay billions of dollars in federal taxes, and yet, residents of US territories are denied access to critical federal programs and support. Otherwise eligible citizens in the territories are denied Supplemental Security Income (SSI), leaving our most vulnerable seniors and disabled people to fend for themselves. Federal programs, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Child Tax Credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), 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) of Guam said. “The question of our time is: will we blink?”

The Hearing will include two panels of distinguished experts:

Panel 1: Members of Congress

  • Delegate Stacey E. Plaskett (D) of the US Virgin Islands

Panel 2: Invited Witnesses

  • Dr. Daniel Immerwahr, Professor, Department of History, Northwestern University
  • Mr. Neil Weare, President, Equally American
  • Hon. Tina Muña Barnes, Vice Speaker, Guam Legislature
  • Prof. Rose Cuison-Villazor, Professor of Law and Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar, Rutgers University
  • Dr. Peter S. Watson, President & CEO, the Dwight Group, LLC & Former White House Director of Asian Affairs, National Security Council
  • Hon. Talauega Eleasalo Va’alele Ale, Lieutenant Governor, American Samoa

The committee will meet virtually at 1:00 pm EDT, with the proceedings livestreamed on their website and YouTube.