WASHINGTON (Associated Press) — The Supreme Court has upheld the differential therapy of residents of Puerto Rico, ruling that Congress was inside its energy to exclude them from a advantages program that’s obtainable in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The courtroom held by an 8-1 vote Thursday that making Puerto Ricans ineligible for the Supplemental Security Income program, which supplies advantages to older, disabled and blind Americans, didn’t unconstitutionally discriminate towards them.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose mother and father have been born in Puerto Rico, was the lone dissenter.
Writing for the courtroom, Justice Brett Kavanaugh mentioned the courtroom was sure by a pair of earlier rulings that already upheld the federal legislation that created SSI and excluded Puerto Rico and different U.S. territories from it. Congress later added within the Mariana Islands.
Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory because the Spanish American War in 1898, and its residents are U.S. residents. They can vote in primaries, however not the presidential election, and have restricted illustration in Congress. Many additionally don’t pay federal revenue tax.
Kavanaugh wrote that “just as not every federal tax extends to residents of Puerto Rico, so too not every federal benefits program extends to residents of Puerto Rico.”
In dissent, Sotomayor responded, “In my view, there is no rational basis for Congress to treat needy citizens living anywhere in the United States so differently from others. To hold otherwise, as the Court does, is irrational and antithetical to the very nature of the SSI program and the equal protection of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution. I respectfully dissent.”
The resolution outraged many in Puerto Rico together with Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, who mentioned statehood is the one resolution to Puerto Rico’s second-class standing.
“The decision … once again confirms that the territorial status of Puerto Rico is discriminatory for the island’s U.S. citizens and allows Congress to do what it wants with us,” he mentioned in a press release.
Pierluisi famous that Puerto Rico additionally receives unequal therapy in relation to Medicaid, Medicare and different federal applications.
Meanwhile, Jenniffer González, Puerto Rico’s consultant in Congress and a member of Pierluisi’s pro-statehood get together, referred to as the exclusion an “unbelievable discrimination” that retains greater than 300,000 individuals in excessive poverty.
Jose Luis Vaello-Madero, the Puerto Rico resident on the middle of the case, started receiving SSI funds after he suffered a collection of strokes whereas dwelling in New York.
The funds continued to his checking account in New York even after he moved again to Puerto Rico. When he notified the Social Security Administration, the funds stopped after which the federal government sued to recuperate greater than $28,000 it mentioned he was not entitled to.
Lower courts sided with Vaello-Madero, ruling that the exclusion of Puerto Rico from the SSI program is unconstitutional. In the same case in Guam, a federal choose dominated just lately that residents of that Pacific island additionally ought to be capable to accumulate SSI.
The Justice Department first filed its attraction of a ruling by the first U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals throughout the Trump administration however maintained the case even after President Joe Biden took workplace.
The Biden administration has mentioned it helps altering the legislation to increase SSI funds to Puerto Rico. It included a provision in its Build Back Better proposal to make residents of U.S. territories eligible for SSI funds, however the laws is stalled in Congress.
A separate program, Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled, covers residents of the territories, however it has extra stringent eligibility necessities and pays much less beneficiant advantages than SSI.