On this week’s episode, We the People examines United States v. Vaello-Madero, a case involving U.S. citizen Jose Luis Vaello-Madero who claims the exclusion of Puerto Ricans from the Supplemental Security Income program violates the Constitution. Vaello-Madero began receiving Supplemental Security Income while living in New York but then moved back to Puerto Rico. When the government found that out, it cut off Vaello-Madero’s benefits and sued him because SSI is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands, but not in Puerto Rico or other U.S. territories.
Host Jeffrey Rosen is joined by Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American who was raised in the U.S. territory of Guam and previously worked for Guam’s non-voting Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, and Christina D. Ponsa-Kraus, the George Welwood Murray Professor of Legal History at Columbia Law School who was raised in Puerto Rico and specializes in studying the legal issues surrounding Puerto Rico. Weare and Ponsa-Kraus explain the case, recap its oral argument at the Supreme Court, and walk us through the history of how Puerto Rico and its residents have been treated under the Constitution and by the U.S. government.
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Additional resources and transcript available in our Media Library at constitutioncenter.org/constitution.