In an 8-1 vote, the court held that Congress did not break the Constitution by excluding Puerto Ricans from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a monthly cash payment for low-income elderly, blind or disabled people.
Only Judge Sonia Sotomayor, considered the most liberal on the court, was against the measure, although the majority supported the argument of the administration of President Joe Biden that Puerto Rico could be excluded because its inhabitants are exempt from most federal taxes.
For Sotomayor, there is no rational basis for Congress to treat needy citizens anywhere in the United States differently. “It is irrational and unethical,” said the magistrate.
The case reached the highest judicial instance when Puerto Rican José Luis Vaello Madero, who received SSI benefits while living in New York and continued to do so after moving to Puerto Rico, stopped receiving the payment when the federal government learned of his change of residence and sued him.
For the Puerto Rican nation they affirm this ruling confirms that the relationship between Washington and the Caribbean island, which appears as a Commonwealth, is unequal, unfair, and, above all, colonial.
The Puerto Rican governor, Pedro Pierluisi, attributed the sentence against extending SSI benefits to Puerto Rico precisely to the colonial condition of the territory and described it as “discriminatory.”