A few weeks ago, John Oliver took his “Last Week Tonight” desk to criticise the lack of rights given to US citizens in the country’s territories.
A judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seems to be a fan, as Above the Law points out. Judge Marsha Berzon just ruled on a case where Guam residents sued the government of Guam over a tax refund program. Berzon didn’t actually agree with Oliver, but she acknowledged his criticism in a footnote.
We do note, however, that the so-called “Insular Cases,” which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CesHr99ezWE
Because of a Supreme Court ruling over a century ago, Downes v. Bidwell, US citizens in territories like Guam and Puerto Rico aren’t guaranteed Constitutional rights, and can’t vote for president or elect a Congressional representative.
“More than 4 million people live in the US territories; more than 98% of them are racial or ethnic minorities,” Oliver said. “The more you look into the history of why their voting rights are restricted, the harder it is to justify.”
Since he took over the “Daily Show” hosting gig for a summer two years ago and started hosting “Last Week Tonight” on HBO a year later, Oliver has been seen as Jon Stewart’s heir apparent. He’s made waves for using his time for exhaustive, in-depth looks into underreported subjects — like US territory rights, civil forfeiture, and online harassment — and making them palatable for larger audiences.
Check out Oliver’s full video below:
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