Monday, February 02, 2009
The topic for today's Maps on Monday feature is Palmyra Atoll, located in the North Pacific at 5° 53′ 0″ N, 162° 5′ 0″ W.
Palmyra Atoll has the unique status of being the only incorporated, unorganized territory of the United States.
"Incorporated" in this context means "a specific area under the jurisdiction of the United States, over which the United States Congress has determined that the United States Constitution is to be applied to the territory's local government and inhabitants in its entirety (e.g., citizenship, trial by jury), in the same manner as it applies to the local governments and residents of the U.S. states. Incorporated territories are considered an integral part of the United States, as opposed to being merely possessions."
"Unorganized" means that the United States Congress has NOT enacted an Organic Act to formally set forth its system of government.
There are currently no incorporated organized territories but there have been thirty or so in the past, when this status was typically the prelude to full statehood.
There are several non-incorporated organized territories such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
And then there are a bunch of non-incorporated unorganized territories, mainly uninhabited islands.
But Palmyra Atoll is the only "real" incorporated unorganized territory, putting it essentially in the same legal category as US flag vessels at sea and the grounds of US diplomatic missions in other countries. Isn't that interesting?