Nearly 4 million citizens living in U.S. territories – a population greater than 21 states and larger than the five smallest states combined – are denied the right to vote for President and voting representation in Congress simply because of where they happen to live. This includes more than 100,000 veterans and active duty service members living in U.S. territories. At the same time, decisions made by the federal government impacting residents of U.S. territories can literally mean life or death, a fact thrown in stark relief by the six month anniversary of Hurricanes Maria and Irma hitting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Leaders from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands are now arguing that this is not just morally wrong, it is a violation of international law. Represented by Equally American (formerly We the People Project), a non-profit organization that advocates for equality and civil rights in U.S. territories, territorial leaders from these areas have filed an amicus brief in support of a case brought by former Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rosselló before the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Rosselló v. United States argues that by denying U.S. citizens in the territories voting representation in the federal government, the United States is violating its international law obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and other international agreements. The case was originally filed in 2006 but is only now reaching the merits. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló and Congresswoman Jenniffer González have also filed a letter in support of the case.