Appeal filed in American Samoans' citizenship case
Five residents of American Samoa have filed an appeal in the D.C. Circuit Court after their recent bid for U.S. citizenship was dismissed by a lower court.
The plaintiffs of Tuaua v. United States, which concerns the political status of American territories and their inhabitants, argue that the lower court "relied on a broad interpretation" of the American insular cases.
Neil Weare, president of the We the People Project, which has championed the cause, said the court's broad interpretation led it "to conclude there is no constitutional right to citizenship in the U.S. territories, a decision that should raise eyebrows on Guam."
The insular cases that Weare referred to were a series of Supreme Court battles that took place at the beginning of the 20th century. Those cases determined the political status of U.S. territories and their residents.
Weare compared the cases to Plessy v. Ferguson, a Supreme Court ruling which established the "separate but equal" doctrine of state sanctioned racial segregation during the first half of the 20th century.
Weare said one federal judge, 1st Circuit Court Judge Juan Torruella, said the cases established "'a doctrine of separate and unequal' status for territorial residence."
Although the lower court that dismissed Tuaua v. United States noted that none of the Insular Cases directly address the citizenship clause of the U.S. Constitution, the court ultimately determined that citizenship isn't guaranteed to those born in the Untied States' unincorporated territories.
The citizenship clause refers to part of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which confers American citizenship upon anybody "born or naturalized in the United States."
But in American Samoa, residents are considered "non-citizen nationals." It's the only territory for which Congress hasn't extended birthright citizenship for residents.
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