NYSBA Signs Memorandum of Understanding With Bar Association of Puerto Rico
The New York State Bar Association entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Bar Association of Puerto Rico last night as the 2022 SOMOS Conference in San Juan got underway.
The agreement comes at a time when there is a concerted effort to overturn the Insular Cases and establish equal rights for all U.S. citizens including the people of the U.S. Territories. The U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have cited the Insular Cases, which date back to the early 1900s, and their racist language in denying equal rights – including the right to vote and to receive Social Security benefits to the people of the U.S. Territories.
Advocates had pinned their hopes on the U.S. Supreme Court hearing Fitisemanu v. United States, a case in which plaintiffs argued that residents of American Samoa were protected by the Citizenship Clause of the Constitution and deserved full citizenship rights. But on Oct. 19, the high court denied certiorari.
“Despite our disappointment that Fitisemanu won’t be argued in front of the Supreme Court, we still plan to advocate against and educate about the Insular Cases,” said Sherry Levin Wallach, president of the New York State Bar Association. “In addition to our joint advocacy, our partnership with the Bar Association of Puerto Rico is a tribute to the many hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have come to New York over the years, bringing their skills and their talents and enriching the fabric of all our lives.”
The agreement provides a framework for the two bar associations to develop day-to-day collaborations encompassing programming, network building, and shared education.
Manuel Quilichini, president of the Bar Association of Puerto Rico, and Levin Wallach signed the MOU.
In addition to the MOU signing, the association is hosting a panel discussion at the SOMOS conference. The program: The Impacts of Unequal Treatment for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Territories: The Insular Cases, Territories Clause and Recent Supreme Court Cases.
The panelists will discuss key cases and recent legal developments related to the impact of the Insular Cases and interpretations of the U.S. Constitution in perpetuating the inequality for residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories. The discussions will include what organizations and associations can do to support this effort.
SOMOS is a charitable organization that was founded in 1987 by members and allies of the New York State Assembly Puerto Rico/Hispanic Task Force. Its mission is to unite the Latino community and raise awareness by advocating for the nearly 4 million Hispanics residing in New York State.