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Tuaua: Challenge is “our alofa to our own children”

fili@samoanews.com

It’s “our alofa to our own children” that a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of federal laws that deny U.S. citizenship to persons born in American Samoa was filed at the federal court in Washington D.C., according to Leneuoti Tuaua, in a letter dated yesterday to Gov. Togiola Tulafono.

Tuaua, a retired High Court Marshal and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, was responding to the governor’s comments about the lawsuit made on his weekend radio program, where Togiola described the lawsuit as “fa’alealofa”, or action without love.

“I was deeply saddened by the comments you made on your weekly radio program,” Tuaua wrote. “With due respect to your political position, it is because of our ‘alofa' to our own children that we are bringing this challenge. We want our children to have the same rights and benefits as anyone else born in the United States, no matter where they may choose to live or work.”

“Our children shouldn't face obstacles to employment or voting simply because they may choose to live stateside,” he said and claimed that he has received “overwhelmingly supportive responses from many people since I filed the case, so I'm not the only one who feels this way.”

“You, of course, are certainly entitled to your personal opinion on citizenship and our relationship with the rest of the United States,” said Tuaua. “But so long as the U.S. flag flies over American Samoa, with our sons and daughters fighting and dying to defend that flag, I believe we each have an individual right under the U.S. Constitution to be recognized as citizens.”

He said American Samoans should not have to ask to be recognized as U.S. citizens, or pay hundreds of dollars and relocate away from our home in American Samoa as the naturalization process requires.

“Just like everyone else born in the United States, being born under the U.S. flag as part of the American family should be enough,” the letter said. “This is especially true for our military veterans, whose extraordinary service and sacrifice are to be honored.”

“We are proud to be part of the American family, just as we are proud to be part of our own communal families. Yet I know it is wrong that we are treated as second-class Americans,” he said. “This case simply asks whether it is also unconstitutional.”

“As a lawyer and a former judge, you of all people should understand that a court of law is the proper place to have this question of individual rights under the Constitution answered, not the court of public opinion,” he said. “And wanting my children to have the same rights as other Americans doesn't make me any less Samoan.”

There was no immediate reaction from the local attorney for the plaintiffs, Charles Alailima to the governor’s comments on his radio program. Togiola had accused the attorneys of pushing this issue in federal court.

(See yesterday’s edition of Samoa News for more information on the governor’s comment on the radio)



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