On the Campaign Trail 2012

ASBA Forum: Citizen Clause should be put to voters say most candidates

During the American Samoa Bar Association forum held last week, at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium, the question about the Citizenship clause — where US nationals would receive US citizenship automatically — became one of the interesting foci of the event.

Gubernatorial candidates who attended this forum were Afoa L Su’esu’e Lutu, Lolo Moliga, Save Liuato Tuitele, Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau and Tim Jones, while Faoa Aitofele Sunia was absent.

Moderator for the event was Tapaau Dr Daniel Aga.

 Earlier this year a group of US nationals consisting of local residents and others residing in the United States filed a lawsuit with the US District Court of the District of Columbia in the case of Tuaua vs. United States of America asking the court to declare the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States of America as consistent with the application of rights of US territory born individuals — they would be US citizens. At the heart of the argument is the right of the US Congress to deny citizenship rights to people born in US territories, i.e. they cannot vote in US general elections and are classified US Nationals.

Local concerns have centered on the affect of the Citizen designation on our communal land rights and our ability to control our own immigrations laws. 

“Where do you stand on this issue, and what will you do if you are elected Governor?” was asked of the gubernatorial candidates.

With the exception of Save, all gubernatorial candidates were against the lawsuit.


Afoa pointed out that those who are born and reside in the Territory should have been asked if they agree to this lawsuit filed on their behalf — however the people were not consulted.

He added that this is very critical issue because American Samoa is an unincorporated, unorganized territory under the United States of America.

“For them to bring themselves this case before the court without asking us, will impact everybody, whether we like it or not… I would rather they would ask us and for the people to decide whether we want to take the step or not,” Afoa said.


Lolo agreed with Afoa and said that when citizenship comes up, the issue of the political status comes to mind. Lolo said he will not speculate on the real reasons behind the citing of the 14th amendment to be the reason why we should be US citizens.

“The whole purpose of that 14th Amendment as far as I know was the reaffirmation of the laws that were provided the rights of the slaves to be citizen and their rights to be Americans.

“This is an issue of jurisdiction… the question is are we qualified to be citizens under the 14th amendment… as far as I’m  concerned, we are not, as long as we stay unorganized and unincorporated the full force of the US constitution and the US laws will not be fully applied to the territory that’s why we are so different.

“It’s just a matter of us understanding where we stand as far as our political status is concerned, said Lolo.  

He added that those who filed this lawsuit should have done it for themselves… because if this case is granted this will affect our communal lands, and what belongs to the people of American Samoa.


Save said we are part of the United States of American and we should automatically become US Citizens.

He said that this is very important issue however it needs to be put out to the people, which should have been done years ago.

Save thanked those who filed this lawsuit in the US court, given that this promotes thinking and discussion of a fundamental issue which must be resolved… which is the territory’s political status.

He pointed out that if you are not a US Citizen you cannot find a job in the Federal government, and noted in his own experience, he had to get a top-secret-clearance in order to be in the military because he was not a US Citizen.


Salu said that to her understanding for American Samoa nationals to become citizens, it cannot be approved in court, it must be approved by Congress. She added that in the past Congress was ready to discuss this issue however the government did not want to be part of it. Salu believed that this issue should be a public discussion.

“I believe I do not want somebody living in the US to make a decision which I feel is my right to be a US Citizen or not.

“I believe that is the right of every living person in American Samoa and until we discuss our political status relationship with the US and decide what kind of territory [we want] then we can answer if it’s US Citizenship or National.


Jones said he’s not empowered to speak for the lawmakers in the United States but he does have an idea of how they may react. He noted that the courts in the US will consider the petitioners because it’s the way they would react to anything like this.

“I would be very much surprised to find anyone interested out there making any kinds of decision regarding your status of Citizens or Nationals without putting it to the voters.” 

Jones said he believes the lawsuit will not go anywhere.

“If they go anywhere with this… they will end up coming back to ask you to vote on it and pass it through your legislature and then maybe it will get out there.”


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