Gov repeats: citizenship issue for community, not individuals
Gov. Togiola Tulafono has responded to concerns raised by Leneuoti Tuaua regarding the governor’s comments on the lawsuit filed this month at the federal court in Washington D.C. challenging the constitutionality of federal laws that deny U.S. citizenship to persons born in American Samoa.
The governor maintains his stand that the citizenship issue should be decided by the people of American Samoa and not just the handful of plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit, wherein Tuaua is the lead plaintiff.
Two weekends ago, the governor described the lawsuit on his radio program as “fa’alealofa” and Tuaua sent a response to the governor last Monday, saying: “With due respect to your political position, it is because of our alofa' to our own children that we are bringing this challenge.” (See last Tuesday’s Samoa News edition for more details)
This past weekend, a male caller to the governor’s radio program agreed with the governor that any U.S. nationals wanting citizenship can apply under federal laws without involving all American Samoans.
The governor thanked the caller for support on this issue, and has has since responded to Tuaua, who was described by Togiola as a “brother” to him. Togiola said he informed Tuaua that he truly respects “the love and care of my brother towards his children” as the reason for filing this lawsuit.
However, Togiola says he informed Tuaua that the main issue of “fa’alealofa”, “or lack of compassion” he referred to regarding the lawsuit was for the rest of the U.S. nationals — because if this lawsuit is successful that means U.S. citizenship will be forced upon everyone who will then “have no choice” but to accept it.
The governor says the plaintiffs have a choice in this matter, because there is already an avenue in place for them to seek citizenship, if that is what they want. However, if citizenship is forced upon the rest of the U.S. nationals, who don’t want citizenship, “then we don’t have a choice”.
For example, said Togiola, if the governor makes a final decision for American Samoa to be independent and this is what the chief executive wants, it will affect everyone who does not want to change the territory’s current political status.
“That means I will drag along everyone else in the territory who does not want the territory to be independent,” said Togiola. “This is the same situation with the lawsuit, where everyone else is dragged along in this case not wanting to change their U.S. national status because they have been forced along, if the final court decision is in favor of the plaintiffs.”
He said the second issue in his reply to his “brother” Tuaua, is that citizenship is not a matter pertaining to just one individual, but involves everyone in the community.
In a democratic society such as the one under which American Samoa operates, the majority vote on citizenship should be the final decision, no matter a governor’s personal view and opinion, said Togiola. He said he would be satisfied then, if the majority voted in support of the issue.
The governor also recalled a portion of Tuaua’s letter which states in part that “many” people have called him in support of the lawsuit. Togiola said the word “many” starts with two people and more and “we don’t know how ‘many’ people” called Tuaua, as cited in the letter.
If the “many” cited in Tuaua’s letter, is two, three, four, or 500 people, that is still not a majority of the 55,000 population of the territory, he said and reiterated citizenship issues should not be resolved by just a handful of plaintiffs. He said the final decision should be made by the community.