America’s Disenfranchised Territorial Inhabitants

More people live in Puerto Rico alone than in about half of America’s states, yet the island’s residents and those of other territories — who combined number over 4 million people — are nonetheless denied various rights accorded to them as recognized U.S. citizens; in the case of American Samoa, they are not even granted automatic citizenship, despite the name.

This is despite the fact that, in the case of Guam for example, one quarter of the land is occupied by U.S. military bases, and one out of eight people are veterans. Puerto Ricans, American Samoans, and other groups have similarly done their part for the country, whether it is military service, paying the taxes they still owe, or simply being active civic participants (despite the lack of real voting rights on the federal, straw polls still reveal large turnouts).

John Oliver offers an illuminating takedown of this unjust arrangement, including its racist legal and historical basis.

To add to the many injustices highlighted by the video is another unmentioned consequence: the high rate of emigration from these territories to the mainland, which is due in no small part to the limited opportunities and political rights available in the territories.

While I knew my fellow American citizens and nationals in the territories were legally and politically marginalized, I had not realized the extent of it nor the archaic and perturbing basis for it.

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