Judge Says Federal Government Unconstitutionally Withholding Benefits from Puerto Ricans
The U.S. government gives social security benefits to help the elderly, blind, and disabled people who are struggling economically -- but the government excludes U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. A judge on Monday said that the federal government is violating the Constitution by prohibiting people who live in Puerto Rico from receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The decision is part of a lawsuit the U.S. government filed against a Puerto Rican man to recoup money in Social Security supplemental payments he obtained after moving to the island from NY. In the ruling, District Judge Gustavo Gelpí accused the federal government of unconstitutionally discriminating against Puerto Ricans by using a clause in the Constitution that allows federal legislators to enact rules and regulations for U.S. territories to violate their equal protection rights. “This clause, however, is not carte blanche for Congress to switch on and off at its convenience the fundamental constitutional rights to Due Process and Equal Protection enjoyed by a birthright United States citizen who relocates from a State to Puerto Rico.’” he argued. Gelpí concluded that the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality also means Puerto Ricans have the full privileges of citizenship. After the decision was announced, Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR) introduced a bipartisan bill to make SSI extensive to the Americans in Puerto Rico and the other territories “who are currently suffering this unequal and indignant treatment,” González-Colón said. “This bill is a temporary fix; the only true, permanent solution is Statehood.” More here.