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12/16/2018

New Book: "Almost Citizens" by Sam Erman
Michael Ramsey

Recently published, by Sam Erman (USC): Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire (Cambridge University Press 2018).  Here is the book description from Amazon: 

Almost Citizens lays out the tragic story of how the United States denied Puerto Ricans full citizenship following annexation of the island in 1898. As America became an overseas empire, a handful of remarkable Puerto Ricans debated with US legislators, presidents, judges, and others over who was a citizen and what citizenship meant. This struggle caused a fundamental shift in constitution law: away from the post-Civil War regime of citizenship, rights, and statehood and toward doctrines that accommodated racist imperial governance. Erman's gripping account shows how, in the wake of the Spanish-American War, administrators, lawmakers, and presidents together with judges deployed creativity and ambiguity to transform constitutional meaning for a quarter of a century. The result is a history in which the United States and Latin America, Reconstruction and empire, and law and bureaucracy intertwine.

This episode, and the whole sorry history of the Insular Cases' post-Spanish-American War abandonment of the Constitution, is another example of how non-originalism can depart from core constitutional values and reduce or eliminate what should be guaranteed rights.