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Jessop-Ta’ase unanimously supported for AG post at Senate confirmation hearing

Attorney General-nominee Mitzie Jessop-Ta’ase with Sen. Magalei Logovi

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — During her Senate confirmation hearing last week, Attorney General-nominee Mitzie Jessop-Ta’ase was asked her view on the decision by the federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah, which ruled that US nationals born in American Samoa are automatic US citizens, under provisions of the US constitution.

Jessop-Ta’ase — who was later unanimously confirmed by a vote of 18-0 during the Senate session — appeared before the Senate Rules Rules for her confirmation hearing while she will appear later this week for the House confirmation process.

“I disagree with the Utah [federal court} decision,” said Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean during the confirmation hearing, adding that he believes such matter on citizenship should be decided by people residing in American Samoa.

“I’m not against US citizenship,”Tualolo said. “You can go and apply for citizenship,” referring to any US national wishing to become a US citizen and this is done by those living in the US.

But for a federal court to rule that US citizenship is automatic for those born in American Samoa, “I disagree with,” he said and asked Jessop-Ta’ase, “what’s your opinion on that?”

Calling it an important matter to American Samoa, Jessop Ta’ase noted that this issue has become a heavy burden on the minds of both lawmakers as well as many local residents. Making clear that this is her own personal opinion, she told senators that she believes that the citizenship issue should be presented to “our people to decide on” following public hearings to gather input and look at issues “benefiting our people.”

And as an attorney, she said it’s difficult for her to think of how a decision is made by an off island court, which has never been here, not aware of the local culture but then makes decisions, which become a burden on the minds of local residents.

She agrees with Tuaolo’s view that such a decision should be made by those who live in American Samoa through the process of public hearings, asking residents as to whether they support or don’t support automatic citizenship for persons born in American Samoa.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the federal court decision is on hold while the case goes through the appeal process at the US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to the latest court filings, the defendants — US State Department and its senior officials — and the intervenors — the American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Aumua Amata — are given until Mar. 30th to file their separate opening briefs.

The plaintiffs (or appellees), which are three American Samoans living in Utah and a non-profit group, filed their opening briefs and response on Apr. 21st.


Another related federal issue raised by Tuaolo so that he and others could have a better understanding, is whether a person born in American Samoa can run for President of the United States.

For example, Democratic presidential hopeful, US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who was born in American Samoa.

Tuaolo said it was his belief that only those born in the 50-states qualify. (Samoa News notes that Tuaolo’s question has also been raised many times on social media since Gabbard announced her candidacy last year.)

Jessop-Ta’ase said that it’s her understanding that because Gabbard was born in American Samoa — a US territory — and later became a naturalized US citizen, she qualifies.  However, if a person was born in a foreign country and later become a naturalized citizen, that individual doesn't qualify as a candidate for the US president.

Tuaolo informed his follow senators that when he was police commissioner, Jessop-Ta’ase  — who was deputy attorney general at the time — helped train the DPS Criminal Investigation Division to write police reports which assist with prosecutions.

Samoa News will report this week on other matters from the Senate confirmation hearing.