Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Professor Christina Duffy Ponsa in the New York Times writes that the Supreme Court will soon decide whether to grant certiorari (here is the petition) in Tuaua v. United States, which poses the question of whether the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment applies to American Samoa. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” The United States annexed the eastern half of a group of Pacific islands known as the Samoas at the end of the 19th century. As a result, those islands became American Samoa. Surely, people born in American Samoa are legally speaking born in the United States and therefore citizens by birth. Easy, right? Not so easy. The answer is that no one knows for sure.
A group of "Citizenship Scholars," among others, filed an amicus brief in support of the petitioners. The D.C. Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Janice Rogers Brown, ruled that the 14th Amendment does not extend citizenship to American Samoans.
Professor Ponsa concludes her op/ed as follows:
"The 14th Amendment is supposed to protect people not only from arbitrary and unjust denials of their citizenship, but from uncertainty about whether they are citizens at all. Both the insult of second-class status and the injury of uncertainty are the ugly legal legacies of 19th century American expansionism. The court should hear the Tuaua appeal and clarify the scope of the Citizenship Clause once and for all."