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Court rules on American Samoa citizenship

Monday 8 June 2015 | Published in Regional


PAGO PAGO – The American Samoa Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen is pleased with a landmark decision by the US Court of Appeals on citizenship.

The court found the citizenship clause in the US Constitution does not apply to people born in American Samoa.

Aumua says now that a federal court has ruled, it is up to American Samoans living in the islands to decide the issue of citizenship themselves.

The congresswoman says Friday’s historic decision means the people of American Samoa have won the right to self-determination and continuation of their unique history and culture.

She says people have been confusing the status of American Samoans living in the US and those living in the territories.

“The federal court has made it clear that citizenship of those nationals in American Samoa should be offered only when

the people as a group decide they want it.

“Now that the court has ruled, I’ll be offering my American Samoa Freedom of Choice Act in the near future which will address both of these issues.”

Amata says American Samoans living in the US would benefit from an accelerated citizenship process under her anticipated measure.

People born in American Samoa are classified as US nationals, not citizens.

In order to become US citizens, they have to live in the United States for six months and apply for citizenship.

The Congresswoman expects the House Judiciary Committee, with jurisdiction over immigration and citizenship to handle the bill.

Howeer, a lawyer involved in the landmark US citizenship case says the ruling on the case justifies a second class status for people born in American Samoa.

Charles Alailima, who represented the plaintiffs in the case Tuaua vs United States, says the decision marks the first time a federal court of appeals has ruled that citizenship by birth on US soil is not a fundamental right.

He says it is based on antiquated and foreign views of citizenship that have until now been rejected under American law.

He says the decision also ignores that American Samoa’s traditional leaders believed US citizenship was part of the deal when they signed over sovereignty to the United States through the Deeds of Cession.

The lawyer says it fails to even mention the Fono repeatedly petitioned Congress for US citizenship in the decades to come, only to be denied it because of opposition from the US Navy.

The lead plaintiff Leneuoti Tuaua says he believes the US Constitution guarantees citizenship to everyone born on US soil.

The plaintiffs have yet to decide whether they will take the case further.