Relations between the United States Supreme Court and the Biden administration have been rough in recent months, with President Joe Biden publicly condemning the Court’s abortion-related ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
More tension was evident this week as the administration told the Supreme Court that it should not hear Fitisemanu v. U.S, a case regarding birthright citizenship.
Controversy over early 20th century cases
According to the Washington Examiner, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar filed a brief with the Court on Monday which argued that Congress should be left to decide questions regarding citizenship for those in the U.S. territory known as American Samoa.
That was the position the Court took in a series of early 20th-century decisions known as the Insular Cases. Those cases dealt with newly acquired territory following the Spanish American War and contain statements that many today regard as racist.
“The government in no way relies on the indefensible and discredited aspects of the Insular Cases’ reasoning and rhetoric,” Prelogar wrote, adding, “This case would be an unsuitable vehicle for reexamining those cases.”
The administration’s move was criticized by Neil Weare, who serves as president and founder of Equally American.
Weare’s organization is dedicated to promoting equal rights in American territories and in a statement released on Monday he complained that the Insular Cases are “rooted in white supremacy.”
“It is shocking that the Biden-Harris Administration and the Solicitor General continue to breathe life into the Insular Cases, which were grounded in a vision of white supremacy that has no place in our society, much less briefs filed by the U.S. Justice Department,” he declared.
The Examiner noted that Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch expressed disagreement with the Insular Cases last year after hearing a case regarding whether U.S. residents living in Puerto Rico can claim benefits under a federal insurance program.
“The flaws in the Insular Cases are as fundamental as they are shameful,” the Trump appointee wrote, adding that they have “no foundation in the Constitution” and “rest on racial stereotypes.”
However, the Examiner pointed out that the issue of citizenship is a matter of contention among those who reside in American Samoa.
Republican Aumua Amata serves as American Samoa’s delegate to Congress, and she stated in a brief that any changes regarding citizenship should be addressed legislatively.