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Amata confirms appeal of citizenship lawsuit

U.S. Federal District Court building Salt Lake City, Utah
Source: Washington Office of Cong. Aumua Amata

Washington, D.C. — Tuesday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata confirmed that she and the Governor of American Samoa have filed an appellate brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in the Fitisemanu case alongside the U.S. Department of State, appealing the District court decision of Judge Waddoups in Utah. The December ruling, which would impose blanket citizenship, thereby upsetting the political process of self-determination, elevated longstanding concerns about the impact on the islands’ traditional culture and heritage — Fa’a Samoa, the Samoan way.

“We are committed to the preservation of Fa’a Samoa, even as we work to make sure that a simplified path to an individual citizenship choice is readily available and accessible to any American Samoans who personally desire to pursue it,” said Aumua Amata. “I will keep our people informed in any way I can, and will continue to be guided by the wishes of those I directly represent in the islands in continuing to work with Governor Lolo Moliga on this important issue.”

Their brief in support states: “American Samoa is unique among all U.S. territories.  More than a century ago, its tribal leaders voluntarily ceded sovereignty to the United States.  It is a predominately self-governing territory that has never been conquered, never been taken as a prize of war, and never been annexed against the will of its people.  In this case, however, Plaintiffs urge the Court to forcibly extend U.S. citizenship—along “with its concomitant rights, obligations, and implications for cultural identity,” on all persons born in American Samoa, whether they like it or not.  This is untenable.”

The appeal additionally notes that, “extending birthright citizenship to people who do not want it violates every legal principle of self-determination, sovereignty, and autonomy.  As the D.C. Circuit explained in the Tuaua case, there is an absence of evidence that a majority of the territory’s inhabitants desire U.S. citizenship and, indeed, the territory’s democratically elected representatives actively oppose such a compact recognizing that to impose citizenship by judicial fiat would require the court to override the democratic prerogatives of the American Samoan people themselves.  Many aspects of the fa’a Samoa are truly unique, and the people of American Samoa are dedicated to preserving their traditional culture.  The people of American Samoa believe, with good justification, that a fundamental change in their status, such as the judicial extension of unbounded U.S. citizenship, could threaten the fa’a Samoa.  It would be impractical and anomalous for the Court to impose such a change upon American Samoa against its will.”

In closing, Aumua Amata emphasized that the Court should “leave it to Congress, the American Samoa Government, and the American Samoan people to decide whether to pursue U.S. citizenship and to reverse the lower court in this case for taking such unilateral action.”