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.
A U.S. territory is considered "organized" when the U.S. Congress passes an organic act for it. 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.
The first insular areas that the United States occupied were Baker Island, Howland Island and Navassa Island (1857) then Johnston Atoll and Jarvis Island (both in 1858) would be claimed. After the War between the United States and Spain in 1898, several territories were taken that are still under U.S. sovereignty (Puerto Rico and Guam, both in 1898). Palmyra Atoll was annexed along with the Republic of Hawaii (formerly a Kingdom) that same year. American Samoa was reclaimed the following year (1899). In 1917, at the height of World War I, Denmark sold the Danish Virgin Islands to the United States.
The former British-American condominium of Canton and Enderbury, consisting of the atolls of Canton and Enderbury in the northeast of the Phoenix Islands, became part of this new island state on July 12, 1979, the day of independence from the State of Kiribati.
The U.S. Navy annexed Kingman Reef in 1922. Spain had sold the Northern Mariana Islands to Germany in 1899. The islands passed to Japan, which in turn lost them to the United States in 1945 after the end of World War II. The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, located on the southern side of Guantanamo Bay and taken from Spain in 1898, is not a U.S. outlying territory but a U.S. military base on formally "leased" land on the island of Cuba.
The Marshall Islands became self-governing in 1979 and fully independent along with the Federated States of Micronesia in 1986. Palau achieved independence in 1994. The three countries maintain sovereignty with free association status with the United States, which provides them with defense assistance and economic resources.
The month long Liberation of Manila led by General Douglas MacArthur took place, and consequently resulted in Manila Massacre committed by the Japanese forces throughout the Battle of Manila. An estimated 100,000 Manila civilians were killed during the massacre.
The Privileges and Immunities Clause regarding the rights, privileges, and immunities of citizens of the United States was expressly extended to Puerto Rico by the U.S. Congress through federal law codified in Title 48 the United States Code as 48 U.S.C. § 737 and signed by President Harry S. Truman. This law indicates that the rights, privileges, and immunities of citizens of the United States shall be respected in Puerto Rico to the same extent as though Puerto Rico were a State of the Union and subject to the provisions of paragraph 1 of section 2 of article IV of the Constitution of the United States.
Congress has extended citizenship rights by birth to all inhabited territories except American Samoa, and these citizens may vote and run for office in any U.S. jurisdiction in which they are residents. The people of American Samoa are U.S. nationals by place of birth, or they are U.S. citizens by parentage, or naturalization after residing in a State for three months. Nationals are free to move around and seek employment within the United States without immigration restrictions, but cannot vote or hold office outside American Samoa.
The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Code also use the term "insular area" to refer not only to territories under the sovereignty of the United States, but also those independent nations that have signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States. While these nations participate in many otherwise domestic programs, and full responsibility for their military defense rests with the United States, they are legally distinct from the United States and their inhabitants are neither U.S. citizens nor nationals.
Current insular areas by status
The following islands, or island groups, are considered insular areas:
Three sovereign UN member states which were all formerly in the U.S. administered United Nations Trust Territory and are currently in free association with the U.S. The U.S. provides national defense, funding, and access to social services.
^"Transfer Day". Archived from the original on June 28, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2006.
^ ab"Municipalities of Puerto Rico". Statoids. Retrieved August 10, 2006.
^ abcImmerwahr, Daniel (2019). How to hide an empire : a history of the greater United States (First ed.). New York. ISBN 978-0-3741-7214-5.
^ abcd"Relationship with the Insular Areas". U.S. Department of the Interior. Archived from the original on May 26, 2006. Retrieved August 10, 2006.
^"Municipalities of Northern Mariana Islands". Statoids. Retrieved August 10, 2006.
^"Background Note: Palau". Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Retrieved August 10, 2006.
^The Senate and the House of Representative of Puerto Rico Concurrent Resolution
^PBS Newshour, "American Samoans don't have right to U.S. citizenship", Associated Press, June 5, 2015, viewed August 13, 2015.
^US Department of Interior. "Insular Area Summary for American Samoa" Archived 2015-08-20 at the Wayback Machine. viewed August 13, 2015.
^"Puerto Ricans pay import/export taxes". Stanford.wellsphere.com. Archived from the original on April 1, 2010. Retrieved August 14, 2010.
^U.S. State Dept. "Foreign Relations of the United States". Retrieved May 18, 2016. The people of Puerto Rico will continue to be exempt from Federal income taxes on the income they derive from sources within Puerto Rico, and into their treasury, for appropriation and expenditure as their legislature may decide, will be deposited the proceeds of United States internal revenue taxes collected on articles produced in Puerto Rico and the proceeds of United States tariffs and customs collected on foreign merchandise entering Puerto Rico.
^"Puerto Ricans pay federal commodity taxes". Stanford.wellsphere.com. Archived from the original on 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
^"Topic Number 903 - U.S. Employment Tax in Puerto Rico". Irs.gov. December 18, 2009. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
^Publication 570(PDF). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Internal Revenue Service. 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
^“Foreign in a Domestic Sense”: U.S. Territories and “Insular Areas”
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Insular areas of the United States.
Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs
Department of the Interior Definitions of Insular Area Political Organizations