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of the United States
Commonwealth is a term used by two unincorporated territories of the United States in their full official names. The territories are: the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico (which, in Spanish, officially calls itself the 'Free Associated State of Puerto Rico').
The definition of Commonwealth according to current U.S. State Department policy (as codified in the department's Foreign Affairs Manual ) reads: "The term 'Commonwealth' does not describe or provide for any specific political status or relationship. It has, for example, been applied to both states and territories. When used in connection with areas under U.S. sovereignty that are not states, the term broadly describes an area that is self-governing under a constitution of its adoption and whose right of self-government will not be unilaterally withdrawn by Congress."
Of the current U.S. insular areas, the term was first used by Puerto Rico in 1952 as its formal name in English ("Commonwealth of Puerto Rico"). The formal name in Spanish for Puerto Rico is Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico ("Free Associated State of Puerto Rico"). The United States acquired the islands of Puerto Rico in 1898 after the Spanish–American War. In 1950, Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 81-600) authorizing Puerto Rico to hold a constitutional convention and in 1952, the people of Puerto Rico ratified a constitution establishing a republican form of government for the island.Puerto Rico's political relationship with the U.S. has been a continuing source of debate in Puerto Rico, the United States Congress, and the United Nations. The issue revolves around whether Puerto Rico should remain a U.S. territory, become a U.S. state, or become an independent country. The debate has spawned several referenda, presidential executive orders and bills in the U.S. Congress. Ultimately the U.S. Congress is the only body empowered to decide the political status of Puerto Rico, as stated under the Territorial Clause.
Despite the Spanish translation of the term "commonwealth", Puerto Rico's relationship with United States is not a Compact of Free Association (which is the case for the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands). As sovereign states, these islands have full right to conduct their own foreign relations, while the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is part of the United States as a territory.
The territory was organized by the Foraker Act in 1900, which was amended by the Jones–Shafroth Act in 1917. The drafting of the Constitution of Puerto Rico by its residents was authorized by Congress in 1951, and the result approved in 1952. The government of Puerto Rico has held several referenda with the options of U.S. statehood, independence, and commonwealth; the commonwealth option won on multiple plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998.In 2012, 54% of the voters did not wish to continue the present territorial status. Of the non-territorial statuses, becoming a U.S. state got 61.16% of the votes, Sovereign Free Associate State got 33.34% and Independence got 5.49%.
Puerto Ricans have United States citizenship and vote for a Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, with voice but without vote, in the United States House of Representatives. With the exception of federal employees (such as employees of the United States Postal Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and servicemen in all branches of the military), residents of Puerto Rico generally do not pay federal income taxes (with the exception of Social Security and Medicare taxes) and Puerto Rico has no representation in the Electoral College that ultimately chooses the U.S. president and vice president.
Puerto Rico has sports sovereignty, with its own national team at the Olympics and at other international competitions. Puerto Rico also participates in different international organizations such as the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) (associate member), the Organization of Ibero-American States (full member), and the Ibero-American Summit (associate member).
In 1976, Congress approved the mutually negotiated Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in Political Union with the United States.Prior to November 28, 2009, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) did not apply in the CNMI. Rather, a separate immigration system existed in the CNMI. This system was established under the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America ("Covenant"), which was signed in 1975 and codified as 48 U.S.C. § 1801. The Covenant was unilaterally amended by the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA) approved by the U.S. Congress on May 8, 2008, thus altering the CNMI's immigration system. Specifically, CNRA § 702(a) amended the Covenant to state that "the provisions of the 'immigration laws' (as defined in section 101(a)(17) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(17))) shall apply to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands."2 Further, under CNRA § 702(a), the "immigration laws," as well as the amendments to the Covenant, "shall ... supersede and replace all laws, provisions, or programs of the Commonwealth relating to the admission of aliens and the removal of aliens from the Commonwealth."
Transition to U.S. Immigration Law began November 28, 2009 in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). CNMI's immigration laws have been replaced by the INA and other U.S. immigration laws.
U.S. insular areas are not afforded direct representation in the federal legislature, either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives.
Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution provides that each U.S. State is entitled to two Senators, but makes no provision for representation of insular areas in the Senate.
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution apportions seats in the House of Representatives among the U.S. States by population, with each State being entitled to at least one Representative, but makes no provision for representation of insular areas in the House. Insular areas are, however, afforded limited representation in the House by a Delegate who may vote in committee but not on the House floor.
The Commonwealth of the Philippines was an insular area that held commonwealth status from November 15, 1935 until July 4, 1946. The United States recognized the future independence of the Philippines in 1934 but called for a transitional ten-year period.
The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, is an insular area and commonwealth of the United States consisting of 14 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The CNMI includes the 14 northernmost islands in the Mariana Archipelago; the southernmost island, Guam, is a separate U.S. territory. The CNMI and Guam are the westernmost territories of the United States.
A dependent territory, dependent area or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state yet remains politically outside the controlling state's integral area.
In the United States, a territory is any extent of region under the sovereign jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters and all U.S. naval vessels. The United States asserts sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its territory. This extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States federal government for administrative and other purposes. The United States total territory includes a subset of political divisions.
United States' territory is any extent of region under the sovereign jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters and all U.S. naval vessels. The United States asserts sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its territory. This extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States federal government for administrative and other purposes. The United States' total territory includes a subset of political divisions.
Political divisionsof the United States are the various recognized governing entities that together form the United States – states, the District of Columbia, territories and Indian reservations.
"51st state", in post-1959 American political discourse, is a phrase that refers to areas or locales that are – seriously or facetiously – considered candidates for U.S. statehood, joining the 50 states that presently compose the United States. The phrase has been applied to external territories as well as parts of existing states which would be admitted as separate states in their own right.
An insular area of the United States is a U.S. territory that is not one of the 50 states and is not a Federal district. Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution grants to the United States Congress the responsibility of overseeing these territories. There are 14 U.S. Territories as of 2018: three in the Caribbean Sea and 11 in the Pacific Ocean. These territories are classified by whether they are incorporated and whether they have an organized territorial government established by the U.S. Congress through an organic act. All territories but one are unincorporated, and all but four are considered to be unorganized. Five U.S. territories have a permanent, nonmilitary population. Each of them has a civilian government, a constitution, and enjoys some degree of local political autonomy.
Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the United States government. The various U.S. territories differ from the U.S. states and Native American tribes in that they are not sovereign entities. They are classified by incorporation and whether they have an "organized" government through an organic act passed by Congress. All U.S. territories are part of the United States, but the unincorporated territories are not considered to be integral parts of the United States, and the Constitution of the United States applies only partially in those territories.
In the United States, each state has its own written constitution.
The United States nationality law refers to the uniform rule of naturalization of the United States set out in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, enacted under the power of Article 1, section 8, clause 4 of the United States Constitution, which grants the Congress the power to "establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization..." The 1952 Act sets forth the legal requirements for the acquisition of, and divestiture from, American nationality. The requirements have become more explicit since the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, with the most recent changes to the law having been made by Congress in 2001.
Non-voting members of the United States House of Representatives are representatives of their territory in the House of Representatives, who do not have a right to vote on proposed legislation in the full House but nevertheless have floor privileges and are able to participate in certain other House functions. Non-voting members may vote in a House committee of which they are a member and introduce legislation. There are currently six non-voting members: a delegate representing the District of Columbia, a resident commissioner representing Puerto Rico, and one delegate for each of the other four permanently inhabited US territories: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. A seventh delegate, representing the Cherokee Nation, has been formally proposed but not yet seated, while an eighth, representing the Choctaw Nation, is named in a treaty but has neither been proposed nor seated. As with voting members, non-voting delegates are elected every two years, and the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico is elected every four years.
The Jones–Shafroth Act —also known as the Jones Act of Puerto Rico, Jones Law of Puerto Rico, or as the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act of 1917— was an Act of the United States Congress, signed by President Woodrow Wilson on March 2, 1917. The act superseded the Foraker Act and granted U.S. citizenship to anyone born in Puerto Rico on or after April 11, 1899. It also created the Senate of Puerto Rico, established a bill of rights, and authorized the election of a Resident Commissioner to a four-year term. The act also exempted Puerto Rican bonds from federal, state, and local taxes regardless of where the bond holder resides.
The Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, 1 CMC § 3101, is the highest court of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), exercising civil and criminal appellate jurisdiction over commonwealth law matters. It should not be confused with the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, which exercises jurisdiction over federal law. The Supreme Court sits in the capital, Saipan, and consists of a Chief Justice and two Associate Justices. The CNMI has no intermediate appellate commonwealth law court, which means that the CNMI Supreme Court hears appeals directly from the trial-level Superior Court.
Under United States law, an unincorporated territory is an area controlled by the United States government that is not "incorporated" for the purposes of United States constitutional law. In unincorporated territories, the U.S. Constitution applies only partially. In the absence of an organic law, a territory is classified as unorganized. In unincorporated territories, "fundamental rights apply as a matter of law, but other constitutional rights are not available". Selected constitutional provisions apply, depending on congressional acts and judicial rulings according to U.S. constitutional practice, local tradition, and law.
The United States House of Representatives election in the Northern Mariana Islands, 2008 took place on November 4, 2008 and was the Northern Mariana Islands' first election of a delegate to the United States House of Representatives. Since the CNMI traditionally had general elections in odd-numbered years, the November 2008 ballot contained only this office.
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan is a Northern Mariana Islander politician and former election commissioner. Elected in 2008, Sablan became the first delegate to the United States House of Representatives from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The political status of Puerto Rico is that of an unincorporated territory of the United States. As such, the island is neither a sovereign nation nor a U.S. state. Because of that ambiguity, the territory, as a polity, lacks certain rights but enjoys certain benefits that other polities have or lack. For instance, in contrast to sovereign nations, Puerto Rico does not have voting rights in its federal legislature nor in electing its federal head of state. But, in contrast to U.S. states, only some residents of Puerto Rico are subject to federal income taxes. The political status of the island thus stems from how different Puerto Rico is politically from sovereign nations and from U.S. states.
Voting rights of citizens in Guam differ from those of United States citizens in each of the fifty states. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Guam is entitled to a delegate, who is not allowed to vote on the floor of the House, but can vote on procedural matters and in House committees. Citizens of Guam may not vote in general elections for President.
The Omnibus Territories Act of 2013 is a bill that amend laws concerning the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The bill would increase the size of the territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, start an energy plan for the areas, and expand turtle conservation efforts.