Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Update on Lawsuit by American Samoans Regarding Citizenship

As Kevin Johnson blogged previously, a number of American Samoans filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that, under the Citizenship Clause, they are U.S. citizens. A link to the complaint may be found here.

Last week, Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, who represents the territory of American Samoa, filed an amicus brief seeking dismissal of the lawsuit.  Download Tuaua v. US Faleomavaega Amicus Brief

Congressman Faleomavaega relied on legal precedent - the Insular Cases - which has held that the Citizenship Clause does not extend to persons born in unincorporated territories (like American Samoa). Moreoever, Congressman Faleomavaega argued that the issue of U.S. citizenship is best left up to Congress, which has plenary power over the territories. Finally, he contended that the question of citizenship may have adverse impacts on traditional aspects of Samoan culture, including restrictions on the alienation of communal land.

This case raises the question of the extent to which constitutional rights apply in the U.S. territories, which is at the heart of another lawsuit about citizenship in a U.S. territory, the CNMI, that I blogged about previously. I believe it is important to follow these territorial cases because they highlight the ways in which citizenship continues to be contested and negotiated.



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