United States territorial acquisitions

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A map of the Earth, showing the fifty U.S. states in green. Location United States.svg
A map of the Earth, showing the fifty U.S. states in green.

United States territory is any extent of region under the sovereign jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, [1] including all waters (around islands or continental tracts) and all U.S. naval vessels. [2] The United States asserts sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its territory. [3] This extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States federal government (which includes tracts lying at a distance from the country) for administrative and other purposes. [1] The United States total territory includes a subset of political divisions.

In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics, human impact characteristics, and the interaction of humanity and the environment. Geographic regions and sub-regions are mostly described by their imprecisely defined, and sometimes transitory boundaries, except in human geography, where jurisdiction areas such as national borders are defined in law.

Sovereignty concept that a state or governing body has the right and power to govern itself without outside interference

Sovereignty is the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies. In political theory, sovereignty is a substantive term designating supreme authority over some polity. In international law, the important concept of sovereignty refers to the exercise of power by a state. De jure sovereignty refers to the legal right to do so; de facto sovereignty the ability in fact to do so

Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a legal body to administer justice within a defined field of responsibility, e.g., Michigan tax law. In federations like the United States, areas of jurisdiction apply to local, state, and federal levels; e.g. the court has jurisdiction to apply federal law.

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Territory of the United States

The United States territory includes any geography under the control of the United States federal government. Various regions, districts, and divisions are under the supervision of the United States federal government. The United States territory includes clearly defined geographical area and refers to an area of land, air, or sea under jurisdiction of United States federal governmental authority (but is not limited only to these areas). The extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States of America federal government (which includes tracts lying at a distance from the country) for administrative and other purposes.

Federal government of the United States National government of the United States

The federal government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the president and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of Congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.

District Administrative division, in some countries, managed by local government

A district is a type of administrative division that, in some countries, is managed by local government. Across the world, areas known as "districts" vary greatly in size, spanning regions or counties, several municipalities, subdivisions of municipalities, school district, or political district.

Sea Large body of salt water

The sea, the world ocean or simply the ocean is the connected body of salty water that covers over 70% of Earth's surface. It moderates Earth's climate and has important roles in the water cycle, carbon cycle, and nitrogen cycle. It has been travelled and explored since ancient times, while the scientific study of the sea—oceanography—dates broadly from the voyages of Captain James Cook to explore the Pacific Ocean between 1768 and 1779. The word sea is also used to denote smaller, partly landlocked sections of the ocean and certain large, entirely landlocked, saltwater lakes, such as the Caspian Sea and the Dead Sea.

Constitution of the United States

Original copy of the Constitution. Constitution of the United States, page 1.jpg
Original copy of the Constitution.

Under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, territory is subject to and belongs to the United States (but not necessarily within the national boundaries or any individual state). This includes tracts of land or water not included within the limits of any State and not admitted as a State into the Union.

Article Four of the United States Constitution Portion of the US Constitution regarding states

Article Four of the United States Constitution outlines the relationship between the various states, as well as the relationship between each state and the United States federal government. It also empowers Congress to admit new states and administer the territories and other federal lands.

The Constitution of the United States states:

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

Congress of the United States

Congress possesses power to set territorial governments within the boundaries of the United States. [4] The power of Congress over such territory is exclusive and universal. Congressional legislation is subject to no control, unless in the case of its being particularly and explicitly ceded to the territory by act of Congress. The U.S. Congress is granted the exclusive and universal power to set a United States territory's political divisions.

Political authority

In political philosophy and ethics, political authority describes any of the moral principles legitimizing differences between individuals' rights and duties by virtue of their relationship with the state. Political authority grants members of a government the right to rule over citizens using coercion if necessary, while imposing an obligation for the citizens to obey government orders.

Supreme Court of the United States

All territory under the control of the federal government is considered part of the "United States" for purposes of law. [5] From 1901–1905, the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of opinions known as the Insular Cases held that the Constitution extended ex proprio vigore to the territories. However, the Court in these cases also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation. Under the same, the Constitution only applied fully in incorporated territories such as Alaska and Hawaii, whereas it only applied partially in the new unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. [6] [7] A Supreme Court ruling from 1945 stated that the term "United States" can have three different meanings, in different contexts:

The Insular Cases are a series of opinions by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1901, about the status of U.S. territories acquired in the Spanish–American War. When the war ended in 1898, the United States had to answer the question of whether or not people in newly acquired territories were citizens, a question the country had never faced before. The preliminary answer came from a series of Supreme Court rulings, now known as the Insular Cases, which responded to the question of how American constitutional rights apply to those in United States territories. The Supreme Court held that full constitutional protection of rights does not automatically extend to all places under American control. This meant that inhabitants of unincorporated territories such as Puerto Rico—"even if they are U.S. citizens"—may lack some constitutional rights. Today, many legal scholars refer to the Insular Cases as a constitutional justification for colonialism and annexation of places not within United States boundaries. The Insular Cases "authorized the colonial regime created by Congress, which allowed the United States to continue its administration—and exploitation—of the territories acquired from Spain after the Spanish–American War." These Supreme Court rulings allowed for the United States government to extend unilateral power over these newly acquired territories.

Territory of Alaska territory of the USA between 1912–1959

The Territory of Alaska or Alaska Territory was an organized incorporated territory of the United States from August 24, 1912, until Alaska was granted statehood on January 3, 1959. The territory was previously the Department of Alaska, 1868–1884; and the District of Alaska, 1884–1912.

Territory of Hawaii Organized incorporated territory of the United States, 1900–1959

The Territory of Hawaii or Hawaii Territory was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from April 30, 1900 until August 21, 1959, when most of its territory, excluding Palmyra Island and the Stewart Islands, was admitted to the Union as the fiftieth U.S. state, the State of Hawaii. The Hawaii Admission Act specified that the State of Hawaii would not include the distant Palmyra Island, the Midway Islands, Kingman Reef, and Johnston Atoll, which includes Johnston Island and Sand Island, and the Act was silent regarding the Stewart Islands.

The term "United States" may be used in any one of several senses. It may be merely the name of a sovereign occupying the position analogous to that of other sovereigns in the family of nations. It may designate the territory over which the sovereignty of the United States extends, or it may be the collective name of the states which are united by and under the Constitution.

Hooven & Allison Co. v. Evatt, 324 U.S. 652 (1945)

United States Department of the Interior

The United States Department of the Interior is charged with managing federal affairs within U.S. territory. [8] The Interior Department has a wide range of responsibilities (which include the regulation of territorial governments and the basic stewardship for public lands, et al.). The United States Department of the Interior is not responsible for local government or for civil administration except in the cases of Indian reservations, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as those territories administered through the Office of Insular Affairs. The exception is the "incorporated and unorganized" (see below) United States Territory of Palmyra Island, the legal remnant of the former United States Territory of Hawaii since 1959, [9] in which the local government and civil administration were assigned by the Secretary of the Interior to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2001. [10]

United States Department of the Interior Cabinet level department of the United States federal government

The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) is a federal executive department of the U.S. government. It is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States. About 75% of federal public land is managed by the department, with most of the remainder managed by the United States Department of Agriculture's United States Forest Service.

Bureau of Indian Affairs US government agency

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States within the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is responsible for the administration and management of 55,700,000 acres (225,000 km2) of land held in trust by the United States for Native Americans in the United States, Native American Tribes and Alaska Natives.

Office of Insular Affairs subsidiary of the Department of the Interior

The Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) is a unit of the United States Department of the Interior that oversees federal administration of several United States insular areas. It is the successor to the Bureau of Insular Affairs of the War Department, which administered certain territories from 1902 to 1939, and the Office of Territorial Affairs in the Interior Department, which was responsible for certain territories from the 1930s to the 1990s. The word "insular" comes from the Latin word insula ("island").

United States divisions

States, territories, and their subdivisions

The contiguous United States, Hawaii, and Alaska are divided into smaller administrative regions. These are called counties in 48 of the 50 states, and they are called boroughs in Alaska and parishes in Louisiana. A county can include a number of cities and towns, or just a portion of either type. These counties have varying degrees of political and legal significance. A township in the United States refers to a small geographic area. The term is used in two ways: a survey township is simply a geographic reference used to define property location for deeds and grants; a civil township is a unit of local government, originally rural in application.

Territories are subdivided into legally administered tracts—e.g., geographic areas that are under the authority of a government. [11] The District of Columbia and territories are under the direct authority of Congress, although each is allowed home rule. [12] The United States Government, rather than individual states or territories, conducts foreign relations under the U.S. Constitution.

Federal enclaves, such as domestic military bases and national parks, are administered directly by the federal government. To varying degrees, the federal government exercises concurrent jurisdiction with the states where federal land is part of the territory previously granted to a state.

History of United States territory

At times, territories are organized with a separate legislature, under a territorial governor and officers, appointed by the President and approved by the Senate of the United States. A territory has been historically divided into organized territories and unorganized territories. [13] [14] An unorganized territory was generally either unpopulated or set aside for Native Americans and other indigenous peoples in the United States by the U.S. federal government, until such time as the growing and restless population encroached into the areas. In recent times, "unorganized" refers to the degree of self-governmental authority exercised by the territory.

As a result of several Supreme Court cases after the Spanish–American War, the United States had to determine how to deal with its newly acquired territories, such as the Philippines, [15] [16] Puerto Rico, [17] Guam, [18] [19] Wake Island, and other areas that were not part of the North American continent and which were not necessarily intended to become a part of the Union of States. As a consequence of the Supreme Court decisions, the United States has since made a distinction between incorporated and unincorporated territories. [20] [21] [22] In essence, an incorporated territory is land that has been irrevocably incorporated within the sovereignty of the United States and to which the full corpus of the U.S. Constitution applies. An unincorporated territory is land held by the United States, and to which Congress of the United States applies selected parts of the constitution. At the present time, the only incorporated U.S. territory is the unorganized (and unpopulated) Palmyra Atoll.

Insular areas

Map of the U.S. Insular areas. US insular areas.svg
Map of the U.S. Insular areas.

The United States currently administers 16 territories as insular areas:

Palmyra Atoll is the only incorporated territory remaining, and having no government it is also unorganized. The remaining are unincorporated territories of the United States. Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands are styled as commonwealths.

Dependent areas

Several islands in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea are dependent territories of the United States. [23] [24]

The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is administered by the United States under a perpetual lease, much as the Panama Canal Zone used to be before the signing of the Torrijos–Carter Treaties and only mutual agreement or U.S. abandonment of the area can terminate the lease.

From July 8, 1947, until October 1, 1994, the United States administered the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, but the Trust ceased to exist when the last member state of Palau gained its independence to become the Republic of Palau. The Panama canal, and the Canal Zone surrounding it, was territory administered by the United States until 1999, when control was relinquished to Panama.

The United States has made no territorial claim in Antarctica but has reserved the right to do so.

Maritime territory of the United States

The government of the United States of America has claims to the oceans in accord with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which delineates a zone of territory adjacent to territorial lands and seas. United States protects this marine environment, though not interfering with other lawful uses of this zone. The United States jurisdiction has been established on vessels, ships, and artificial islands (along with other marine structures).

In 1983 President Ronald Reagan, through Proclamation No. 5030, claimed a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. In December 1988 President Reagan, through Proclamation No. 5928, extended U.S. territorial waters from three nautical miles to twelve nautical miles for national security purposes. However a legal opinion from the Justice Department questioned the President's constitutional authority to extend sovereignty as Congress has the power to make laws concerning the territory belonging to the United States under the U.S. Constitution. In any event, Congress needs to make laws defining if the extended waters, including oil and mineral rights, are under State or Federal control. [25] [26]

The primary enforcer of maritime law is the U.S. Coast Guard. Federal and state governments share economic and regulatory jurisdiction over the waters owned by the country. (See tidelands.)

Territorial waters - United States.svg
The Exclusive economic zones of the United States

International law

The United States is not restricted from making laws governing its own territory by international law. United States territory can include occupied territory, which is a geographic area that claims sovereignty, but is being forcibly subjugated to the authority of the United States of America. United States territory can also include disputed territory, which is a geographic area claimed by the United States of America and one (or more) rival governments.

Under the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, United States territory can include areas occupied by and controlled by the United States Armed Forces. When de facto military control is maintained and exercised, occupation (and thus possession) extends to that territory. Military personnel in control of the territory have a responsibility to provide for the basic needs of individuals under their control (which includes food, clothing, shelter, medical attention, law maintenance, and social order). To prevent systematic abuse of puppet governments by the occupation forces, they must enforce laws that were in place in the territory prior to the occupation.

Customs territories

The fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico form the main customs territory of the United States. Special rules apply to foreign trade zones in these areas. Separate customs territories are formed by American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Other areas

U.S. sovereignty includes the airspace over its land and territorial waters. No international agreement exists on the vertical limit that separates this from outer space, which is international.

Federal jurisdiction includes federal enclaves like national parks and domestic military bases, even though these are located in the territory of a state. Host states exercise concurrent jurisdiction to some degree.

The United States exercises extraterritoriality on overseas embassies and military bases, including the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Despite exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction, these overseas locations remain under the sovereignty of the host countries.

The federal government also exercises property ownership, but not sovereignty over land in various foreign countries. Examples include the John F. Kennedy Memorial built at Runnymede in England, [27] and 32 acres (13 hectares) around Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France. [28]

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 Hurd, John C. (1968) [1858]. The Law of Freedom and Bondage in the United States. New York: Negro Universities Press. pp. 438–439. OCLC   10955.
  2. McLaughlin, Andrew C.; Hart, Albert Bushnell (1914). "Influence of the United States on International Law". Cyclopedia of American Government. 2. New York: D. Appleton and Co. pp. 204–209. OCLC   11430802.
  3. Smith, Robert W. (1986). Exclusive Economic Zone Claims: An Analysis and Primary Documents. Hingham, Mass.: M. Nijhoff. p. 467. ISBN   90-247-3250-6. OCLC   424143523.
  4. An example of this would be the Northwest Ordinance.
  5. See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(36) and 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(38) Providing the term "State" and "United States" definitions on the U.S. Federal Code, Immigration and Nationality Act. 8 U.S.C.   § 1101a
  6. CONSEJO DE SALUD PLAYA DE PONCE v JOHNNY RULLAN, SECRETARY OF HEALTH OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO Page 6 and 7 (PDF), The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, archived from the original (PDF) on May 10, 2011, retrieved 4 February 2010.
  7. The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid" (2007) Juan R. Torruella (PDF), retrieved 5 February 2010.
  8. Towle, Nathaniel C. (1861). A History and Analysis of the Constitution of the United States. Boston: Little, Brown. pp. 384–385. OCLC   60723860.
  9. "GAO/OGC-98-5 – U.S. Insular Areas: Application of the U.S. Constitution; Appendix II:0.3, footnote 22". U.S. Government Printing Office. November 7, 1997. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  10. Secretary of the Interior Order No. 3224, January 18, 2001.
  11. "Geographic Areas Reference Manual". U.S. Census Bureau. 16 September 2005. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  12. "District of Columbia Home Rule Act". abfa.com. 19 November 1997. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  13. Berg-Andersson, Richard E. (14 July 2008). "Official Name and Status History of the several States and U.S. Territories". The Green Papers. Retrieved 12 September 2009.
  14. "Indian Land Cessions in the United States, 1784–1894". The Library of Congress. 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2009.
  15. "Philippines – United States Rule". U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2006-08-22.
  16. "Philippines – A Collaborative Philippine Leadership". U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2006-08-22.
  17. "Treaty of Paris (1898)". Archived from the original on 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
  18. Paul Carano and Pedro C. Sanchez, A Complete History of Guam (Rutland, VT: C. E. Tuttle, 1964)
  19. Howard P Willens and Dirk Ballendorf, The Secret Guam Study: How President Ford's 1975 Approval of Commonwealth Was Blocked by Federal Officials (Mangilao, Guam: Micronesian Area Research Center; Saipan: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Division of Historical Preservation, 2004)
  20. FindLaw: Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901) regarding the distinction between incorporated and unincorporated territories
  21. FindLaw: People of Puerto Rico v. Shell Co., 302 U.S. 253 (1937) regarding application of U.S. law to organized but unincorporated territories
  22. FindLaw: United States v. Standard Oil Company, 404 U.S. 558 (1972) regarding application of U.S. law to unorganized unincorporated territories
  23. "Office of Insular Affairs". Archived from the original on 2007-06-17. Retrieved 2007-06-17.
  24. Department of the Interior Definitions of Insular Area Political Types Archived July 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  25. Andrew Rosenthal (29 December 1988). "Reagan Extends Territorial Waters to 12 Miles". New York Times. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  26. Carol Elizabeth Remy (1992). "U.S. Territorial Sea Extension: Jurisdiction and International Environmental Protection". Fordham International Law Journal. 16 (4): 1208–1252. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  27. Evans, D. M. Emrys (1965). "John F. Kennedy Memorial Act, 1964". The Modern Law Review. 28 (6): 703–706.
  28. "The American Battle Monuments Commission" . Retrieved October 29, 2012. The site, preserved since the war by the French Committee of the Pointe du Hoc, which erected an impressive granite monument at the edge of the cliff, was transferred to American control by formal agreement between the two governments on 11 January 1979 in Paris, with Ambassador Arthur A. Hartman signing for the United States and Secretary of State for Veterans Affairs Maurice Plantier signing for France.

Related Research Articles

Federal jurisdiction refers to the legal scope of the government's powers in the United States of America. See the 1962 Federal Report titled "JURISDICTION OVER FEDERAL AREAS WITHIN THE STATES".

United States federal judicial district

For purposes of the federal judicial system, Congress has divided the United States into judicial districts. There are 94 federal judicial districts, including at least one district in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Three territories of the United States — the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands — have district courts that hear federal cases, including bankruptcy cases. The breakdown of what is in each judicial district is at 28 U.S.C. §§ 81131.

United States territory legal designation

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 divisions of the United States states, the District of Columbia, territories; and their subdivisions

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.

Insular area U.S. territory that is neither a U.S. state nor the District of Columbia

An insular area of the United States is a U.S. territory that is neither a part of one of the 50 states nor of a Federal district. Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution grants to United States Congress the responsibility of overseeing these territories, of which as of 2018 there are 14, 3 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 Political division that is directly overseen by the United States federal government

Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the federal government. They differ from U.S. states and Native American tribes, which have limited sovereignty. The territories 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 unincorporated territories are not considered to be integral parts of the United States, and the U.S. constitution only applies partially in those territories.

Organic act Acts of U.S. Congress that establish a United States territory and how it will be governed

In United States law, an organic act is an act of the United States Congress that establishes a territory of the United States and specifies how it is to be governed, or an agency to manage certain federal lands. In the absence of an organic law a territory is classified as unorganized.

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.

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 federal district of Washington D.C., 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. As with voting members, non-voting delegates are elected every two years, and the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico is elected every four years.

Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901), was a case in which the US Supreme Court decided whether US territories were subject to the provisions and protections of the US Constitution. This issue is sometimes stated as whether the Constitution follows the flag. The resulting decision narrowly held that the Constitution did not necessarily apply to territories. Instead, the US Congress had jurisdiction to create law within territories in certain circumstances, particularly in those dealing with revenue, which would not be allowed by the Constitution for proper states within the Union. It has become known as one of the "Insular Cases".

Federal tribunals in the United States American federal courts

Federal tribunals in the United States are those tribunals established by the federal government of the United States for the purpose of deciding the constitutionality of federal laws and for resolving other disputes about federal laws. They include both Article III tribunals as well as adjudicative entities which are classified as Article I or Article IV tribunals. Some of the latter entities are also formally denominated as courts, but they do not enjoy certain protections afforded to Article III courts. These tribunals are described in reference to the article of the United States Constitution from which the tribunal's authority stems. The use of the term "tribunal" in this context as a blanket term to encompass both courts and other adjudicative entities comes from section 8 of Article I of the Constitution, which expressly grants Congress the power to constitute tribunals inferior to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The United States territorial courts are tribunals established in territories of the United States by the United States Congress, pursuant to its power under Article Four of the United States Constitution, the Territorial Clause. Most United States territorial courts are defunct because the territories under their jurisdiction have become states or been retroceded.

Organized incorporated territories of the United States United States territory with organized government and to which full constitutional rights are extended

Organized incorporated territories are territories of the United States that are both incorporated and organized. There have been no such territories since 1959.

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 legal system of Puerto Rico is a mix of the civil law and the common law systems.

Political status of Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

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, residents of Puerto Rico are not 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.

References

Further reading