Congresswomen from Guam & U.S.V.I. seek to weigh in on citizenship lawsuit In support of the 5 American Samoans
Two Congressional Delegates have asked the federal appeal’s court in Washington D.C. to be allowed to participate as ‘amici curiae’, or “friend of the court”, in support of the five American Samoans and one California based Samoan organization who filed a lawsuit against the federal government arguing that they are entitled to being U.S. citizens under a provision of the U.S. Constitution.
The lower court in June last year dismissed the lawsuit, and sided with the U.S. State Department, the federal government, and two officials of the U.S. State Department. The defendants have asked the appeals court in Washington D.C. to affirm the lower court’s decision.
But yesterday, Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo and U.S. Virgin Islands Congresswoman Donna Christensen filed a motion with the appeal’s court “for leave to participate as ‘amici curiae’ in support” of the plaintiffs-appellants. (Lead plaintiff in the case is local resident, Leneouti F. Tuaua.)
In support of their motion, the Delegates contend this case presents “an important issue of first impression in this court: whether individuals born in territories of the United States are granted citizenship at birth by virtue of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
According to the Delegates, this question is of great significance to the residents of American Samoa who have been classified since 1900 as U.S. “nationals” but not citizens, have been subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and have served in the United States armed forces.
Additionally, the lower court recognized the significance of this question by granting extensive briefing and oral arguments in this case.
“At stake are the rights and privileges of the residents of American Samoa, a longstanding United States territory, who have pledged their allegiance to this nation,” the Delegates point out. “Resolution of this case may impact not only American Samoa but also other United States territories and federal governance of those territories.”
Bordallo and Christensen said they “seek leave to participate as amici curiae to bring to the court’s attention important issues of congressional authority in United States territories, including their own, and issues relating to the legal and political treatment of the insular territories.”
A footnote in the motion states that the Delegates notify the court that “other interested parties may be added” to the brief “as appropriate and permissible.”
According to the motion the attorney for plaintiff-appellant has stated that their clients consent to the participation of the Delegates as ‘amici curiae’ in this case. Attorney for defendant-appellee have indicated that should the government's summary affirmance be denied and amici seek leave to file briefs, the United States would take no position on such motions.
Court records shows that the Delegates are represented by attorney Eugene Gulland, with the Washington D.C. based law firm of Covington & Burling LLP.
Samoa News should point out that Congressman Faleomavaega Eni participated as amicus curiae when the case was in lower court, supporting the U.S. government’s position, that among other things, it is the U.S. Congress which has the authority to grant citizenship to outlying U.S. territories such as American Samoa.
Another request pending in the appeal’s court seeking to participate as ‘amicus curiae’ is U.S. based law professor Samuel Erman, who wants to explain the concept of 'jus soil' citizenship in the United States.” (According to Princeton University website , ‘jus soli’ — is Latin ‘for right of the soil’ — and is commonly known as birthright citizenship.)
Late September, Faleomavaega and the American Samoa Government asked the appeal’s court to grant them leave to intervene or, in the alternative, to participate as amici curiae in this appeal, “which poses a question of exceptional importance to the people of American Samoa.”
There has been no ruling yet on ASG and Faleomavaega’s request. The pair are being represented pro bono by the Kirkland & Ellis law firm in Washington D.C.