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Eni introduces bill aiding U.S. Nationals

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni has moved forward with introduction of federal legislation (H.R.4021) that would make is easy for U.S. nationals living in American Samoa to apply to the U.S. government for U.S. citizenship.

The bill, introduced Tuesday and assigned to the U.S. House Committee on Judiciary, seeks to amend provisions of the federal Immigration and Naturalization Act and waive certain naturalization requirements for U.S. nationals living in the territory.

In an official statement submitted to the U.S. House for records, Faleomavaega explained that American Samoans must travel thousands of miles to Hawaii or California and live there for 3 months before they can apply for citizenship, and pointed to the financial burden of traveling to the U.S. placed on U.S. Nationals in American Samoa as preventing many from applying for citizenship.

“My bill will lift this burden and help U.S. Nationals, who by definition owe a permanent allegiance to the United States, to apply for citizenship directly from American Samoa,” said Faleomavaega, whose statement was obtained by Samoa News through Congressional records.

He said the bill will also eliminate the requirements of knowledge of English and U.S. government for U.S. Nationals seeking citizenship. He emphasized that American Samoa has been a territory of the U.S. for over 100 years and “has in many ways adopted parts of American culture.”

For example, he said the local education system is modeled after the U.S. education system and students learn both English and about the U.S. government in American Samoan schools.

“The requirement of English proficiency and knowledge of the U.S. government was intended for foreign nationals who applied to become U.S. citizens,” he contends. “It is futile to test American Samoans on their knowledge of English and the U.S. government, since they learn these subjects in American Samoan schools.”

The Congressman further contends that  American Samoa has a per capita enlistment rate in the U.S. military that rivals any state. American Samoans have also joined the U.S. Armed Forces and fought and died for the United States during World War II, the Korean war, the Vietnam war, the Persian Gulf wars, and most recently the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he pointed out.

“Despite these sacrifices of American Samoans, U.S. nationals still must travel to the U.S. and wait for 3 months prior to apply for naturalization,” he said. “My bill will have a dramatic positive effect on the lives of U.S. nationals living in American Samoa by removing the hardship of traveling to the U.S. to apply for naturalization.”

In a separate statement released yesterday, Faleomavaega said, “As American Samoans we are considered non-citizen nationals, but have defended the United States in times of war as if we were citizens.”

“I am hopeful that my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will stand and support this critical legislation which recognizes the sacrifices and contributions by our people to the United States and give U.S. nationals living in American Samoa an option to apply for U.S. citizenship directly from American Samoa.” he added.

Introduction of the bill comes following public hearings on the draft proposal held last month at the Fono Guest Fale where Faleomavaega stressed that the measure is only an option for those who do not want to travel to the U.S. and reside there in order to apply for U.S. citizenship.

He also pointed out that during a joint Fono hearing last year, it appeared from comments by lawmakers that they were supportive of the proposal, but he has not heard any official comments from the governor, who was sent last year a copy of the draft bill.

Members of the public who testified at the forum were supportive of the bill and agreed that this measure will lessen the burden on those wanting to remain in the territory and still  apply for citizenship.

However, two other witnesses believed that the best solution to address this matter is to have it put forth in a referendum for the upcoming November general election. Faleomavaega told the audience this can be done via a Fono resolution, that can be put forth for voters to decide.

Click on attachments below to download complete context of Faleomavaega’s press statement on this legislation and also a copy of the bill.