Thursday, September 08, 2022

People were Unfit to Become Citizens

From a Reason op-ed:
Between 1901 and 1904, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a series of cases, collectively known as the Insular Cases, which asked whether the Constitution should fully apply to the residents of Puerto Rico and other territories recently acquired by the U.S. after its victory in the Spanish-American War. The Court held that the Constitution did not fully apply in those U.S.-held territories.

The Insular Cases have been severely criticized — then and now — for being the product of racist and imperialist thinking. The legal scholar Walter F. Pratt Jr., author of The Insular Cases: The Role of the Judiciary in American Expansionism, described the legal arguments involved as "largely racially motivated," since the Court effectively held that "the people of the new territories were unfit to become citizens."

A similar criticism of the Insular Cases was recently voiced by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who argued that "the Insular Cases have no foundation in the Constitution and rest instead on racial stereotypes. They deserve no place in our law."

Gorsuch's characterization is apt. Take the case Dorr v. United States (1904), which asked whether the constitutional right to trial by jury should exist in the Philippines. The Court said no, observing that "the uncivilized parts of the archipelago were wholly unfitted to exercise the right of trial by jury."

In other words, it was racism and imperialism in the guise of a Supreme Court opinion.

Gorsuch also added his voice to those calling for the Insular Cases to be wiped off the books. "The time has come to recognize that the Insular Cases rest on a rotten foundation," Gorsuch wrote. "And I hope the day comes soon when the Court squarely overrules them."

It is funny how no one wants to say whether those ugly racial stereotypes are correct.

The Phillipines and other countries have been free to adopt an American style political and judicial system, if they wanted. Why should the USA impose one? They are not Americans. Imposing White American systems on them seems like racist imperialist thinking on the part of Gorsuch and other legal scholars.

This article implies that it was conventional wisdom that the non-English speaking islanders were unfit to become USA citizens. It does not explain whether the reasons were language, geography, race, culture, education, or whatever, nor does it make any attempt to rebut the reasoning. I infer that the authors concede that the islanders were unfit to become citizens, although perhaps some people were politically motivated to make them citizens anyway.

Democracy only works in a nation with a cohesive citizenry that votes for the common good. Too much diversity destroys it.

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