ASG and Faleomavaega granted time for oral arguments in Citizenship case

American Samoa Government and former Congressman Faleomavaega now have a chance to make oral arguments in the Citizenship lawsuit, since the federal appeals court in Washington D.C. has granted their joint motion to intervene.


Additionally, the appeals court has scheduled the number of minutes each party will be allowed to make those arguments, which will be heard Feb. 9 by a three member panel of judges, according to court records.


Plaintiffs in the case, led by local resident Leneuoti Tuaua, have argued that the Citizenship Clause of the U.S. Constitution applies to persons born in American Samoa, and therefore they should have been given automatic citizenship.


Defendants, which include the U.S. Department of State and the Secretary of State, disagree, arguing that only Congress has the authority to grant U.S. citizenship to “outlying territories” such as American Samoa.


The lower court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs, who then appealed  the case.  Both sides have already filed written briefs, which include individuals participating in the appeal as 'amici curiae', or friends of the court.


ASG and Faleomavaega in a joint 57-page brief last August asked the appeals court that both be allowed as intervenors or in the alternative, amici curiae in this case, saying that they have a much better knowledge and understanding— than the defendants— when it comes to specific issues affecting American Samoa.


Further, ASG and Faleomavaega argued that  a decision to grant automatic citizenship to persons born in American Samoa will have a devastating impact on Samoan culture, land, and political status.


Additionally, both parties believe that a decision on citizenship should be decided by the people of American Samoa, not a federal court thousands of miles away in Washington D.C.


In a one-page order issued Jan. 23, the appeals court granted ASG and Faleomavaega’s request to “intervene” in the appeal process.


Then on Monday this week the court issued another one-page order, allocating time for each party's oral arguments. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are allotted 20 minutes and will go first, followed by defendants with ten minutes in oral argument, while ASG and Faleomavaega will give the final argument, also allotted ten minutes.




Meanwhile, a national civil rights group ‘We the People Project’,  whose president Neil Weare is among the attorneys for the citizenship lawsuit—and who has been vocal in its defense of the plaintiffs— has another issue on its agenda.


The Guam based newspaper, Pacific Daily News reported last week that the civil rights group is preparing a lawsuit against the federal government in an effort to grant the millions of citizens living in U.S. territories the right to vote in presidential elections.


“At this point we have a legal team together, we're looking to identify people interested in identifying with the case," Weave is quoted by the publication. "Once we're able to identify the plaintiffs we'll proceed to file the case over the next few months."


The organization has also put out an online “Right to Vote Survey”, which has been available since last year.


Samoa News should point out the U.S. territories — including American Samoa — can only vote in their local party elections (Democrats or GOP) to select a candidate for the presidential race, with the next presidential election coming up in 2016.

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