An Overdue Overturning: The Insular Cases and the Need for Heightened Judicial Review for Puerto Rico

(Source)   In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which left the entirety of Puerto Rico without power, President Donald Trump visited the island. Towards the end of his trip, President Trump began tossing paper towels into a crowd — as if he were a rock star tossing T-shirts to a concert crowd. This conduct, while disrespectful, perhaps serves as an allegory of the United States’ treatment of Puerto Rico throughout the island’s history. Despite being U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are treated as second-class citizens who are not afforded most of the fundamental rights of mainland Americans. Most notably, Puerto Ricans are not allowed to vote in U.S. elections. This second-class treatment is the result of Puerto Rico’s territorial status as an “unincorporated territory.” The constitutional backbone of this arrangement was cemented by the Supreme Court in the Insular Cases of the early 1900s. These cases, which justified the United States’ colonial expansion and unilateral control over its territories, are still held as good law today. In light of the disparate treatment Puerto Ricans receive and the racist context in which the Insular Cases were written, it is time for American jurisprudence and the Supreme Court to overturn these cases and [read more]