ASG says that US citizenship cannot be “imposed” on American Samoans

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The issue of U.S. citizenship for American Samoans continues in the federal court in America. The American Samoa Government in their arguments says that US citizenship cannot be “imposed” on American Samoans, opposing a petition for the reversal of an appeals court’s ruling which held that the Citizenship Clause does not automatically extend to people born in the U.S. territories.

In a brief filed yesterday in the U.S. Supreme Court, the American Samoan government stated that imposing citizenship runs counter to the “wishes” of American Samoans, who seek self-determination.

The brief was submitted in response to a petition filed by John Fitisemanu and the two other plaintiffs, Pale Tuli and Rosavita Tuli, who were all born in American Samoa, and are currently residing in Utah where they have been denied the right to vote because they are not considered U.S. citizens. 

Under federal law, persons born in American Samoa are U.S. nationals, not U.S. citizens. As U.S. nationals, they owe allegiance to the United States, may enter the United States freely, may apply for U.S. citizenship without first becoming a permanent resident, and may serve (as many American Samoans have) in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The petitioners have asked the Supreme Court to overrule the 10th District Court of Appeal’s decision to deny their plea for citizenship status.

“Petitioners now seek to disrupt that unique status, asking this court to hold that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires imposing birthright citizenship on the American Samoan people regardless of their wishes,” the American Samoan government said. 

“That position contravenes not only constitutional text, structure, and history, but more than a century of unbroken historical practice.”

The American Samoan government pointed out that “nothing prevents petitioners from seeking citizenship for themselves through the streamlined naturalization process that Congress has provided for persons born in American Samoa. “