July 13, 2012
Fighting for U.S. Citizenship in American Samoa: Tuaua v. United States
American Samoa has been a part of the United States for more than a century. Nonetheless, current federal law classifies persons born in American Samoa as so-called “non-citizen nationals” – the only Americans so classified – thus denying the plaintiffs their constitutional citizenship guaranteed by the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It is also the U.S. State Department’s policy to imprint a disclaimer in the plaintiffs’ passports that reads: “THE BEARER IS A UNITED STATES NATIONAL AND NOT A UNITED STATES CITIZEN.” As a result, the plaintiffs and others born in American Samoa are denied the same rights and benefits as other Americans who are recognized as citizens, including the right to vote, the right to apply for and hold many jobs and the right to bear arms.
On July 10, 2012, Constitutional Accountability Center filed litigation in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to vindicate the Constitution’s guarantee of citizenship at birth, contesting the constitutionality of federal laws and policies that deny U.S. citizenship to persons born in the U.S. territory of American Samoa. The lawsuit was filed today by CAC, the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP and preeminent American Samoa attorney Charles V. Ala’ilima, on behalf of Leneuoti Tuaua and other individuals born in American Samoa, as well as the Samoan Federation of America. The case also breaks new ground for CAC: it is the first time CAC has brought trial court litigation.
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