CAC policy counsel in territory for discussions
The Washington D.C. based group Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) has no date set as to when it plans to file a suit at federal court to make the citizenship clause of the U.S. Constitution apply to persons born in American Samoa.
CAC’s litigation and policy counsel Neil Weare arrived in the territory Sunday night and met the following day with the American Samoa Bar Association for an informal discussion on the issue.
Weare, who returned to the U.S. last night, said yesterday afternoon that “there are no decisions yet” as to when the suit will be filed.
An information sheet seeking supporters of such a move claimed that the U.S. based Samoan Federation of America and a group of American Samoans living in the territory and in the U.S. are among the supporters of the proposed suit.
A group called the American Samoa Action has also been established “to challenge the laws that require U.S. Nationals born in American Samoa to go through the naturalization process in order to be recognized as U.S. Citizens,” according to the group’s website.
CAC’s proposed lawsuit first surfaced last month, when Congressman Faleomavaega Eni made public his letter opposing such an action, saying that he cannot support CAC’s efforts “for the simple reason that the issue of U.S. citizenship for American Samoans should be decided by the people of American Samoa and the U.S. Congress, not by a federal court.”
“The CAC’s proposed lawsuit poses much uncertainty as to whether our Samoan culture will be protected or challenged in federal court,” he wrote to CAC. He also noted that a bill is now pending in the U.S. House allowing persons born in American Samoa to apply directly from the territory for citizenship. (See Feb. 23rd edition of Samoa News for full details)
According to the information sheet titled, “Challenging Barriers to Citizenship for Persons Born in American Samoa” distributed locally, “American Samoans are treated differently than other Americans, including those born in other U.S. territories,” because of current federal law.
“As non-citizen nationals, we are treated differently when traveling abroad, and face sometimes challenging obstacles when dealing with federal and state bureaucrats who sometimes do not even realize American Samoa is part of the United States,” it says, adding that no American Samoan should have to pay a nearly $700 naturalization fee or relocate stateside just to be recognized as citizens and enjoy the same rights as other Americans.
“Simply put, so long as the American Flag flies over American Samoa, with our sons and daughters fighting and dying to defend that flag, American Samoa should be recognized as part of ‘the United States’ for purposes of the Citizenship Clause of the Constitution, and any barriers to citizenship for American Samoans should be found unconstitutional,” it says.
“Some believe that if American Samoans are recognized as citizens it would threaten Samoan culture,” according to the information sheet.
“But if prior court decisions are any indication, citizenship is an entirely separate legal and constitutional matter from American Samoa’s communal land and title systems,” it says but provides no supporting court decision to back its claim.
“And traditional rights in American Samoa are already grounded in factors other than whether one is a national or citizen.”
“The harsh reality is that federal naturalization requirements imposed by Congress mean that today the question of citizenship rests in the hands of a federal bureaucrat, with each American Samoan applicant being judged on a case-by-case basis in a process that can take a year or more with no guarantee of success,” it says. “We believe this is unacceptable, and unconstitutional.”
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