New York State Bar Association Urges Department of Justice To Support Equal Rights for Residents of U.S. Territories
The New York State Bar Association is urging the Department of Justice to file a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Insular Cases — which have stood for more than a century and are the basis for denying birthright citizenship to an estimated 3.5 million residents who live in the U.S. territories.
The Justice Department has until Aug. 30 to file its response to petitioners in Fitisemanu v. United States, which advocates hope will be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court and lead the court to overrule the Insular Cases, which have been cited as precedent since first being decided in 1901.
“Two sitting justices have already expressed their abhorrence of the underlying racism enshrined in the current law,” New York State Bar Association President Sherry Levin Wallach said in the letter to the DOJ, which was dated Aug. 22. “Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently called the Insular Cases “both odious and wrong” and Justice Neil Gorsuch stated that they “rest on a rotten foundation.” They both agree it is time to finally overrule the Insular Cases.”
The Fitisemanu case asks the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether individuals who were born in the territories are entitled to birthright citizenship under the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment. If the answer is yes, that would eliminate the Insular Cases as precedent.
Levin Wallach calls the cases “clearly racist” in the letter to DOJ and “a glaring example of how a significant portion of our population is discriminated against based on race and ethnicity, improperly overlooked, and disenfranchised.”
The New York State Bar Association launched a task force on the Insular Cases to make recommendations to grant equality. At the urging of the New York State Bar Association and the Virgin Islands Bar Association, the American Bar Association earlier this month approved a resolution supporting the overruling of the Insular Cases.