WASHINGTON (AP ) – The Supreme Court affirmed Puerto Ricans’ discriminatory treatment and ruled that Congress could exclude them from all benefits programs available in the 50 states and District of Columbia.
In an 8-1 decision, the court found that Puerto Ricans were not eligible for a supplemental income plan. This plan benefits seniors, the blind and the disabled.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents are Puerto Rican, was the only appellant.
Judge Brett Cuano stated that the court was bound to a pair prior rulings that had already approved SSI’s creation and removal from Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories. Later, Congress was also added to the Mariana Islands.
Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory that has existed since the Spanish-American War in 1898. Its residents are U.S. citizens but do not have a presidential vote nor congressional representation. They don’t pay federal income tax.
Kavanaugh stated that not all federal taxes apply to Puerto Ricans and not all federal benefits plans go to Puerto Ricans.
Sotomayor replied in opposition that there was no reason for Congress to treat needy citizens anywhere in the United States differently than others. It is absurd and against the court’s very nature to decide otherwise. “By law. “I respectfully disagree.”
Jose Luis ValloMadro is a Puerto Rican citizen at the centre of the case. He began receiving SSI payments following a stroke in New York.
He received payments to his New York bank account even after he moved to Puerto Rico. After he informed the National Insurance Institute about the situation, payments were stopped. The government then demanded more than $ 28,000 and claimed that he wasn’t eligible.
Lower courts sided with Valo-Maduro and ruled that Puerto Rico’s exclusion is illegal. A federal judge ruled recently that the same residents of the Pacific island should be able to receive SSIs in a similar case.
The Department of Justice filed the first appeal against a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling under the Trump administration. However, the case was maintained even after President Joe Biden became president.
Biden’s administration said that it supports changing the law to allow SSI payments for Puerto Rico. It had included a provision in the Build Back Better proposal that would make U.S. residents eligible to receive SSI payment, but it was blocked by Congress.
Assistance to the elderly, blind, and disabled is a separate program that covers residents of the territories. However, it has stricter eligibility criteria and provides less generous benefits than SSI.