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A group of 13 civil rights organizations sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland last week, calling on the Department of Justice to stop using a series of racist, century-old Supreme Court precedents in its court arguments.

The letter ― signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Hispanic Federation, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, among other groups ― targets a series of Supreme Court rulings from the early 20th century, known as the Insular Cases. These rulings denied the full benefits of citizenship to residents of America’s colonial territorial possessions, on the grounds that they were supposedly populated by “savage tribes” and “alien” and “uncivilized race[s]” who were “absolutely unfit to receive” them.

“We call on the Justice Department to help dismantle this egregious example of systemic racism by publicly condemning the Insular Cases and bringing an end to any reliance on them in future court filings,” the letter states.

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