When the Biden-Harris Administration takes office on January 20, 2021, U.S. citizens living in the territories will have a new President but will still not have a say in who that President is. In a letter sent today, Equally American, a nonprofit organization that advocates for equal rights and representation for residents of U.S. territories, called on the Biden-Harris Administration to address this longstanding injustice and to fight for broader representation and equality for all citizens, wherever they live.
“The four million citizens who live in U.S. territories—98 percent of whom are racial or ethnic minorities—are denied the right to vote for President and voting representation in Congress, making it more difficult to get the attention of elected officials in Washington,” said Equally American President and Founder Neil Weare. “Without the political influence that comes with full enjoyment of the right to vote, citizens in the territories are discriminated against in a broad range of federal programs, which can have life and death consequences,” Weare continued. “President-elect Biden made it a campaign promise to help bring an end to this discrimination, and we look forward to working with his administration to make that promise real,” Weare added.
In its January 11, 2011 letter, Equally American asked the Biden-Harris administration to prioritize executive action and legislation to ensure equal rights and representation for residents of the territories. This includes enabling U.S. citizens in the territories to vote for President, Vice President, and voting representation in Congress; renouncing the Insular Cases and their legacy of racial injustice; including Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program; eliminating Medicaid’s general funding limitation for the territories and ending discrimination in other federal benefits programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); and ensuring residents of Puerto Rico and other territories have the resources and technical assistance they need to recover from natural disasters.
“U.S. citizens living in the territories deserve the same rights and representation as those living in Delaware, California, New Mexico, or anywhere else in the United States,” Weare added. “We applaud President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, including their nomination of Secretary-designee Deb Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior and Secretary-designee Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. We hope that by writing this letter we can encourage the Biden-Harris Administration to transform those values into meaningful and lasting reforms for the residents of the territories, whether through executive action or legislation,” Weare concluded.
Equally American is a nonpartisan public interest law organization that works to advance equality and voting rights in U.S. territories.
Full letter may be viewed here.