Governor Lolo speaks up on US citizenship issues
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga believes it is an individual person’s choice to became a U.S. citizen and he is concerned with automatic citizenship being granted to persons born in American Samoa because of the possible impact on local land tenure.
A lawsuit is pending before the federal court in Washington D.C. that seeks to have the court rule that all persons born in American Samoa should be automatic U.S. citizens. Lead plaintiff in the suit filed last year is local resident Leneuoti Tuaua.
Samoa News asked Lolo, as the new governor for the territory, for his stand on the issue.
“American Samoans are not prohibited from seeking US Citizenship if they so desire. I believe the choice should be left to each individual whether he/she wishes to become a US Citizen,” the governor replied. “...the decision should be made individually and it respects individual rights to decide for one’s self the status he or she wants.”
“I have always been concerned on the impact of this automatic US Citizen bestowment on our land tenure system,” he said. “Unless there is assurance that our land tenure system will not be affected, I will not support any federal measure that might threaten our land ownership.”
During his term as Senate President, between 2005 and 2008, Lolo was adamantly against any federal policy or regulation that threatened not only local land tenure but “our Samoan culture” including chiefly titles.
Last month Congressman Faleomavaega Eni wrote to the governor and copies of the letter were sent to local leaders, about the citizenship lawsuit with the federal court, saying that there is a possibility of ASG “participating as an intervenor should an appeal be filed.”
Asked if ASG is going to participate as an intervenor, Lolo said he will rely on recommendation of the Attorney General whether the American Samoa Government should assume this role.
Samoa News also asked the governor for his thoughts about American Samoans applying directly from the territory for U.S. citizenship if they want to, instead of traveling to the U.S. to reside there in order to qualify to apply for citizenship.
“As long as local American Samoans elect to become US citizens, I welcome any effort to make it easier for local residents to apply for US citizenship from American Samoa,” was the governor’s reply.
Early this year, Faleomavaega wrote to local leaders seeking suggestions and recommendations on four proposed pieces of federal legislation that he plans to introduce into the U.S. House for inclusion into the broader federal Immigration Reform bill that Congress will consider in the months ahead.
One of the proposals would allow American Samoans to apply directly for citizenship from the territory.
“For years, our people have been required to travel to Hawaii or another U.S. state and live there for at least three months before they qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship,” wrote Faleomavaega to local leaders.
Faleomavaega has made it clear that this is an “option” for those U.S. Nationals who want to apply from the territory and does not force citizenship on anyone. He has relayed this same message during meetings with the governor.