The V.I. Attorney General’s Office has joined the legal fight for parity in Supplemental Security Income benefits denied to territorial residents in the Supreme Court case United States v. Vaello Madero.
The case challenges the fact that otherwise eligible citizens can be denied Supplemental Security Income (SSI) simply because they happen to live in Puerto Rico or other U.S. territories, according to a statement from the nonprofit, Equally American.
Vaello Madero “was stripped” of his Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, after moving from New York to Puerto Rico and has “filed a powerful response that the continuing denial of SSI benefits is not just unconstitutional, but would represent a dangerous continuation of the Insular Cases’ doctrine of ‘separate and unequal’ status for residents of U.S. territories,” according to the news release.
“This historic case will once again provide the Supreme Court the choice to either turn the page on continued discrimination against citizens in the territories who remain politically disenfranchised or continue the dark legacy of the Insular Cases,” according to a statement from Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American, which supports equality for the 3.5 million citizens living in U.S. territories – 98% of whom are racial or ethnic minorities.
V.I. Attorney General Denise George issued a statement Wednesday on the Virgin Islands government’s amicus brief filed in support of Vaello Madero.
“Soon after I took office in mid-2019, Gov. Bryan expressed to me his dismay that Virgin Islands residents who are U.S. citizens were not equally entitled to SSI benefits as their stateside counterparts. The Madero case being argued before the Supreme Court now presented the perfect opportunity for us to do something about it by joining the court fight against unequal treatment by the federal government in SSI and other federal programs,” George wrote.
“Unlike the states, the constitutional rights and equality of U.S. citizens do not automatically apply to unincorporated territories. Instead, the civil and constitutional rights of the inhabitants of such territories like the Virgin Islands, are determined by an Act of Congress, such as our Revised Organic Act,” according to George.
As stated in the amicus brief, “the disparate treatment by the federal government of unincorporated territories is grounded historically in the racial and cultural bias of the United States against inhabitants of the territories, beginning about 1901 in a series of racially charged Supreme Court decisions called the Insular Cases,” according to George. “The GVI’s amicus brief supports Madero in the case and asks the court to reverse the insular cases and afford equal treatment and equal protection to Virgin Islanders and other inhabitants of ‘unincorporated’ territories in SSI and other federal benefits.”
The United States has until Sept. 29 to file a response. Oral argument is not yet scheduled.