The Puerto Rico Statehood Action Network and Puerto Ricans in Hillsborough County will host a press conference in Tampa, Florida, on November 9th, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. The press conference will support a statehood demonstration in response to the Supreme Court case on SSI benefits in Puerto Rico.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of United States v. Vaello-Madero. This case examines the question of whether the United States can exclude Puerto Rico from Supplemental Security Income benefits. Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a Social Security program providing help to needy aged and disabled people.
The Vaello-Madero case
Jose Luis Vaello-Madero received SSI benefits while living in New York. He moved to Puerto Rico. Residents of Puerto Rico are not eligible for these benefits, but Social Security continued to make payments to Vaello-Madero for three years. When they realized their error, they sued Mr. Vaello-Madero for the $28,081 they had mistakenly paid to him.
Vaello-Madero won the case, but the U.S. Department of Justice challenged the ruling and the case has come to the Supreme Court for a decision.
The case will be live-streamed.
The brief for Mr. Vallo-Madero summarizes the argument against him by the Department off Justice: “Congress can treat Puerto Rico differently solely because of the island’s ‘unique’ status and ‘unparalleled’ relationship with the United States.”
The respondent will argue, “Although Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory that has been subject to U.S. control for more than 120 years, the people of Puerto Rico (U.S. citizens by birth) have no federal voting power and lack the political power to set their own destiny. That political powerlessness was built on a quagmire of racial and ethnic discrimination.”
Vaello-Madero’s legal team will ask that this injustice be overturned.
The statehood demonstration
The Puerto Rico Statehood Action Network says, “Puerto Rico doesn’t just want parity in federal programs, we want full equality, voting rights and democracy as U.S. citizens, and that is only possible through statehood. Congress must ‘Respect Puerto Rico’s Statehood Vote!'”
The Supreme Court decision could affirm that residents of Puerto Rico are eligible for SSI just like residents of States. However, as a territory, Puerto Rico will continue to be under the control of Congress. The demonstration for statehood supports a permanent solution for Puerto Rico’s history of inequality with the States. As a State, Puerto Rico would be on an equal footing with the current 50 States under the U.S. Constitution.