This month is Virgin Islands History Month, and this June we will engage in our fifth Constitutional Convention. You may wonder what is the connection. Actually, there is a significant connection. The connection is that our past influences our future. The two important events challenged me to question myself as to how much I really know and understand about who we are and what we should try to become by the way of our new constitution.
I became concerned by a statement made a few weeks ago while listening to 1620AM, which is hosted by Mario Moorhead. His statement was that if he were to question any valedictorian or salutatorian of any school in the territory, they would not know what the status is of the territory as a U.S. possession? As I did not have the answer to this question, it prompted me to find out. So I did some research and here is what I found (without much effort) on Wikipedia (an online encyclopedia site). I began by attempting to find out what it means for the Virgin Islands to be a U.S. possession.
As an unincorporated organized territory, we share this status along with Guam, Northern Mariana Islands (Commonwealth) and Puerto Rico (Commonwealth). Next, I found that there is a big difference between being unincorporated and incorporated. The article state: "incorporation as it applies to territories is regarded as a permanent condition. Once incorporated, an incorporated territory can no longer be de-incorporated; that is, it can never be excluded from the jurisdiction of the United States Constitution." Thus, being unincorporated and organized provides us with the option of becoming independent, if we choose.
I further found that under our current status, "an unincorporated territory is an area under U.S. jurisdiction to which only certain 'natural' protections (e.g. freedom of speech, due process) of the Constitution are provided, as well as any specific parts Congress has added apply." The definition also states: "in the history of the U.S., an organized territory is a territory for which the U.S. Congress has enacted an Organic Act. The provisions of an Organic Act typically include the establishment of a bill of rights for the territory, as well as the framework of a tripartite government (executive, judicial, and legislative branches) that mean such a territory is said to be organized."
Historically an organized territory differs from a state in that although an Organic Act allows for limited self-government, if a territory has no constitution, the ultimate authority over the territory is not held by the territorial government but rather by the U.S. Congress. It should be noted that some contemporary organized territories do have constitutions; however, such constitutions are distinct from state constitutions, in that "they do not qualify a territory for becoming a state of the union." Although, my research was basic and brief, I encourage those that are hosting and participating in the elections of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in June, to encourage delegates to be well researched so that they clearly understand our past and are able to create a constitution that will serve us well for hundreds of years to come.
A great place for research novices to start is www.wikipedia.com or www.itsourfuture.org for local information.
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