Underwood: Insular Cases resolution doesn’t go far enough; says concrete political action needed

Dr. Robert Underwood testifies during the public hearing for the Insular cases resolution. (PNC photo)

The Guam Legislature held a public hearing on a resolution that supports a Congressional resolution.

That Congressional resolution rejects the Insular Cases, a series of Supreme Court decisions that affects Guam and other territories to this day.

But Dr. Robert Underwood says a resolution doesn’t go far enough.

Resolution 56 seeks to endorse the passage of House Resolution 279 in Congress.
House Resolution 279 condemns the colonial legacy of the Insular Cases at the federal level.

The resolution reads in part that the Insular Cases “rest on racial views and stereotypes that have long been rejected, are contrary to our Nation’s most basic constitutional and democratic principles and should be rejected as having no place in United States constitutional law.”

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Resolution 56 highlights language from the Insular Cases themselves that says the territories are … “inhabited by alien races…differing from us in religion..customs…and modes of thought,” ….which made it impossible to govern Guam according to Anglo-Saxon principles.”

Some may wonder why a series of Supreme Court decisions from the early 20th century would be important today.

But Guam’s political status, as a territory, stems from the Insular Cases. And Guam’s status as a territory affects the island’s residents in a variety of ways from the inability to vote for president to the fact that Guam residents don’t qualify for various federal programs such as the Supplemental Security Income program.

Dr. Robert Underwood spoke with Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo about the statement he made about the Insular Cases during the hearing.

“I made the statement that the Insular Cases encode in the DNA of the political nature of the United States…that colonies are ok. It’s ok to have a colony. It’s ok to have a territory that is foreign in a domestic sense. That you can rule over without the consent of the governed. That you don’t have to give them any part in the policy-making that will apply to them. It’s ok to have that. That is a total lack of consent of the governed, that makes Guam a colony,” Underwood said.

He said that ultimately, Congress will have to create a binding political process to change the political status, not only of Guam, but of the country’s other territories.

Although he also said that such initiatives tend to not come from Congress but from the President.

And with the Biden administration’s focus on social justice, Underwood thinks the territories just might have a chance for change.

Underwood said that he applauds Resolution 56 as well as House Resolution 279, but stressed they’re only a start.

“The resolution itself doesn’t overturn the Insular Cases. So people have to understand the Insular Cases move on even if this resolution was passed unanimously. It doesn’t do anything. But I will add this. It’s important that the statement be made,” Underwood said.