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Unincorporated territories of the United States

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Title: Unincorporated territories of the United States  
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Subject: Puerto Rico, List of beaches in the United States, United States gubernatorial elections, 2002, American Samoa, Visa policy of Mexico
Collection: Insular Areas of the United States
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Unincorporated territories of the United States

In the law of the United States, an unincorporated territory is an area controlled by the government of the U.S. "where fundamental rights apply as a matter of law, but other constitutional rights are not available".[1] Selected constitutional provisions variously apply depending on Congressional

See also

  1. ^ U.S. Insular Areas Application of the U.S. Constitution, GAO Nov 1997 Report, p.24. viewed June 14, 2013.
  2. ^ American Samoa remains technically unorganized since the U.S. Congress has not passed an Organic Act for the territory, but American Samoa is self-governing under a constitution that became effective on July 1, 1967.
  3. ^ Definitions of insular area political organizations, "Unincorporated territory". viewed June 14, 2013, and Government Accountability Office (GAO) Nov 1997 Report, U.S. Insular Areas Application of the U.S. Constitution, p.35. viewed June 14, 2013.
  4. ^ See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(36) and 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(38) Providing the term "State" and "United States" definitions on the U.S. Federal Code, Immigration and Nationality Act. 8 U.S.C. § 1101a
  5. ^ Vignarajah, Krishanti. Political roots of judicial legitimacy: explaining the enduring validity of the ‘Insular Cases’., University of Chicago Law Review, 2010, p.790. viewed June 13, 2013.
  6. ^ Consejo de Salud Playa de Ponce v. Johnny Rullan, Secretary of Health of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico pages 6–7, viewed June 19, 2013.
  7. ^ The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid (2007) Juan R. Torruella, retrieved 5 February 2010 
  8. ^ Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922)
  9. ^ Rassmussen v. U S, 197 U.S. 516 (1905)
  10. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau Releases 2010 Census Population Counts for Guam". 2010 Census. US Census. August 24, 2011. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  11. ^ Midway Islands History. Retrieved on 2013-07-19.
  12. ^ The World Almanac & Book of Facts 1901, p93
  13. ^ "Transfer Day". Retrieved 2006-08-10. 
  14. ^ a b "Municipalities of Puerto Rico". Statoids. Retrieved 2006-08-10. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Relationship with the Insular Areas". U.S. Department of the Interior. Archived from the original on 2006-05-26. Retrieved 2006-08-10. 
  16. ^ "Municipalities of Northern Mariana Islands". Statoids. Retrieved 2006-08-10. 
  17. ^ "Background Note: Palau". Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Retrieved 2006-08-10. 
  18. ^ The Senate and the House of Representative of Puerto Rico Concurrent Resolution
  19. ^ Lawson, Gary, and Sloane, Robert. Puerto Rico’s legal status reconsidered, p.53. Viewed June 21, 2013.
  20. ^ Consejo de Salud Playa Ponce v. Johnny Rullan, p.28: "The Congressional incorporation of Puerto Rico throughout the past century has extended the entire Constitution to the island ...."


^1 Scholars agreed as of 2009 in the Boston College Law Review, "Regardless of how Puerto Rico looked in 1901 when the Insular Cases were decided, or in 1922, today, Puerto Rico seems to be the paradigm of an incorporated territory as modern jurisprudence understands that legal term of art".[19] In November 2008 a district court judge ruled that a sequence of prior Congressional actions had had the cumulative effect of changing Puerto Rico's status to incorporated.[20]


The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico has enacted a concurrent resolution to request the President and the Congress of the United States to respond diligently and effectively, and to act on the demand of the people of Puerto Rico, as freely and democratically expressed in the plebiscite held on November 6, 2012, to end, once and for all, its current form of territorial status and to begin the process to admit Puerto Rico to the Union as a State.[18]

December 11, 2012

Palau attained de jure independence, but remained in free association with the United States.[17]

October 1, 1994

The United Nations terminated the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands for the Palau district, ending the territory, making Palau de facto independent, as it was not a territory of the United States.

May 25, 1994

The United Nations terminated the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands for all but the Palau district.

December 22, 1990

The Federated States of Micronesia attained independence from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and remained in free association with the United States.

November 3, 1986

The Marshall Islands attained independence from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, though the trusteeship granted by the United Nations technically did not end until December 22, 1990. The Marshall Islands remained in free association with the United States.

October 21, 1986

[16][15] The

January 1, 1978

Article Three of the United States Constitution, was expressly extended to the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico by the U.S. Congress through the federal law 89-571, 80 Stat. 764, this law was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

September 12, 1967


July 1, 1967

[15] The

July 22, 1954


July 25, 1952

The Guam as an unincorporated territory.[15]

July 1, 1950

The Privileges and Immunities Clause regarding the rights, privileges, and immunities of citizens of the United States was expressly extended to Puerto Rico by the U.S. Congress through the federal law codified on the Title 48 the United States Code as 48 U.S.C. § 737 and signed by President Truman. This law indicates that the rights, privileges, and immunities of citizens of the United States shall be respected in Puerto Rico to the same extent as though Puerto Rico were a State of the Union and subject to the provisions of paragraph 1 of section 2 of article IV of the Constitution of the United States.

August 5, 1947

The United Nations granted the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to the United States, consisting primarily of many islands fought over during World War II, and including what is now the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau. It was a trusteeship, and not a territory of the United States.

July 14, 1947

The United States recognized Philippine independence.

July 4, 1946

The Tydings–McDuffie Act was signed allowing the creation of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.

March 24, 1934

The name of Porto Rico was changed to Puerto Rico.[14]

May 17, 1932

The United States purchased the U.S. Virgin Islands under the terms of a treaty with Denmark.[13]

March 31, 1917

Puerto Rico. This act conferred United States citizenship on all citizens of Puerto Rico.

March 2, 1917

The Philippine Autonomy Act or Jones Law was signed, promising the Philippines independence.

August 29, 1916

Under the terms of a 1903 lease agreement, the United States came to exercise complete control over Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, while Cuba retained ultimate sovereignty over the territory.

February 23, 1903

General Emilio Aguinaldo, the Filipino leader in the Philippine–American War and President of the Malolos Republic, surrendered to the United States, allowing the latter to form a civilian government.

April 1, 1901

The United States took control of the portion of the American Samoa.

June 7, 1900

The 1898 Puerto Rico.[12]

April 11, 1899

Captain William Reynolds of the USS Lackawanna formally took possession of the Midway Atoll for the United States.[11]

August 28, 1867





Territory Population Area Region
American Samoa 55,519 197.1 km2 Pacific
Guam 159,358[10] 541.3 km2 Pacific
Northern Mariana Islands 53,883 463.63 km2 Pacific
Puerto Rico 3,706,690 9,104 km2 Caribbean
United States Virgin Islands 109,750 346.36 km2 Caribbean
Baker Island Uninhabited 2.1 km2 Pacific
Howland Island Uninhabited 1.8 km2 Pacific
Jarvis Island Uninhabited 4.5 km2 Pacific
Johnston Atoll Uninhabited 2.67 km2 Pacific
Kingman Reef Uninhabited 76 km2 Pacific
Midway Atoll Uninhabited 6.2 km2 Pacific
Navassa Island Uninhabited 5.2 km2 Caribbean
Wake Island 120 7.38 km2 Pacific
Total 4,085,320 12,272.24 km2
Territory Population Area Region


List of unincorporated territories


  • List of unincorporated territories 1
    • Current 1.1
      • Inhabited 1.1.1
      • Uninhabited 1.1.2
    • Former 1.2
  • History 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • See also 5

"The inhabitants of the ceded territory . . . shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States;" This declaration, although somewhat changed in phraseology, is the equivalent, as pointed out in Downes v. Bidwell, of the formula, employed from the beginning to express the purpose to incorporate acquired territory into the United States, especially in the absence of other provisions showing an intention to the contrary.".[9] Here we see that the act of incorporation is on the people of the territory, not on the territory per se, by extending the privileges and immunities clause of the Constitution to them.

Upon like considerations, Article III has been viewed as inapplicable to courts created in unincorporated territories outside the mainland, Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 266–267; Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 312–313; cf. Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138, 145, 149, and to the consular courts established by concessions from foreign countries, In re Ross, 140 U.S. 453, 464–465, 480. 18

In Glidden Co. v. Zdanok, 370 U.S. 530 (1962) the court cited Balzac and made the following statement regarding courts in unincorporated territories:

The United States District Court is not a true United States court established under article 3 of the Constitution to administer the judicial power of the United States therein conveyed. It is created by virtue of the sovereign congressional faculty, granted under article 4, 3, of that instrument, of making all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory belonging to the United States. The resemblance of its jurisdiction to that of true United States courts, in offering an opportunity to nonresidents of resorting to a tribunal not subject to local influence, does not change its character as a mere territorial court.[8]

To define what is an unincorporated territory, in Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922), the Court used the following statements regarding the court in Puerto Rico:

From 1901 to 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of opinions known as the Insular Cases, held that the Constitution extended ex proprio vigore (i.e., of its own force) to the continental territories. However, the Court in these cases also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation, under which the Constitution applies fully only in incorporated territories such as Alaska and Hawaii, and applies only partially in the new unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.[6][7]

All modern inhabited territories under the control of the federal government can be considered as part of the "United States" for purposes of law as defined in specific legislation;[4] but, the judicial term "unincorporated" was coined to legitimize the U.S. late 19th-century territorial acquisition without citizenship and their administration without constitutional protections temporarily until Congress made other provisions. The case law allowed Congress to impose discriminatory tax regimes with the effect of a protective tariff upon territorial regions which were not domestic states.[5]


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