Insular area

In the law of the United States, an insular area is a U.S.-associated jurisdiction that is not part of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. This includes fourteen U.S. territories administered under U.S. sovereignty, as well as three sovereign states each with a Compact of Free Association with the United States.[1][2] The term also may be used to refer to the previous status of the Philippine Islands and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands when it existed.

Locations of the insular areas of the United States, color-coded to indicate status
  Incorporated, unorganized territory
  Unincorporated, organized territory
  Unincorporated, organized territory with Commonwealth status
  Unincorporated, unorganized territory

Three of the U.S. territories are in the Caribbean Sea, eleven are in the Pacific Ocean, and all three freely associated states are also in the Pacific. Two additional Caribbean territories are disputed and administered by Colombia.

Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants to the United States Congress the responsibility of overseeing the territories.[lower-alpha 1] A series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions known as the Insular Cases created a distinction between "incorporated territories", where the full Constitution of the United States applies, and "unincorporated territories", where only basic protections apply. The only current incorporated territory, Palmyra Atoll, is uninhabited.

A U.S. territory is considered "organized" when the U.S. Congress passes an organic act for it.[1] All of the five U.S. territories with a permanent non-military population have constitutions, locally elected territorial legislatures and executives, and some degree of political autonomy. Four of the five are "organized", but American Samoa is technically "unorganized" and subject to the direct jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs.

American Samoa

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