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Supreme Court upholds Puerto Ricans' exclusion from benefits program

Supreme Court
Posted at 8:45 AM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 11:56:22-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has upheld the differential treatment of residents of Puerto Rico, ruling that Congress was within its power to exclude them from a benefits program that’s available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The court held by an 8-1 vote Thursday that making Puerto Ricans ineligible for the Supplemental Security Income program did not unconstitutionally discriminate against them.

The program provides benefits to older, disabled and blind Americans.

"The Constitution affords Congress substantial discretion over how to structure federal tax and benefits programs for residents of the Territories," Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the court's opinion.

The lone dissenter Thursday was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico.

"In my view, there is no rational basis for Congress to treat needy citizens living anywhere in the United States so differently from others," Sotomayor wrote.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory whose residents are U.S. citizens but have no vote for president or representation in Congress.