ASG, Amata and US identify issues they plan to raise in appeal of US citizenship lawsuit
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Aumua Amata, along with the US State Department have identified issues that they plan to raise in their appeal against a Utah federal court ruling, which gives automatic US citizenship to persons born in American Samoa.
ASG and the Congresswoman are intervenors and the State Department, with its top officials, are defendants in the US citizenship lawsuit at the federal court in Salt Lake City, which ruled on Dec. 12, 2019 that — among other things — “persons born in American Samoa are citizens of the United States by virtue of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
The intervenors and the defendants already filed notice of appeal with the 10th US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal based in Denver, Colorado. Court records as of yesterday state that the appellants, the intervenors and federal government, are given until Apr. 6th to file their briefs.
As part of the appeal process, the appellants filed last week their statements, which includes a brief description of the nature of the underlying case and issues to raise on appeal.
ASG AND CONGRESSWOMAN
In their joint statement, the intervenors, noted that American Samoa, an unincorporated U.S. territory, has a unique cultural and historical heritage known as the fa’a Samoa. The intervenors point out that in June 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court “denied certiorari in a case regarding U.S. citizenship of persons born in American Samoa.”
This case, which was filed at the federal court in Washington D.C., had local resident Leneuoti Tuaua as lead plaintiff.
The intervenors point out that the D.C. Circuit Court, declined to impose birthright citizenship, recognizing that “to impose citizenship by judicial fiat” would require the court to “override the democratic prerogatives of the American Samoan people themselves.”
“The imposition of citizenship on the American Samoan territory is impractical and anomalous at a more fundamental level,” said the intervenors quoting the Circuit court decision. “We hold it anomalous to impose citizenship over the objections of the American Samoan people themselves, as expressed through their democratically elected representatives.”
However, in March 2018, three US nationals from American Samoa living in Utah filed the current complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, asking the Salt Lake City federal court, to revisit the very same question that
“Tuaua [case] had addressed, forge an unprecedented path, and declare that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies to all persons born in American Samoa.”
The lower court sided with the plaintiffs, and that ruling is stayed pending appeal.
The intervenors plan to raise in their appeal, “whether the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment extends birthright citizenship to all persons born in American Samoa, an unincorporated U.S. territory with a unique cultural and historical heritage, over the objections of its democratically elected government.”
In its statement, the State Department explained that federal law specifies that individuals born in American Samoa are "nationals, but not citizens, of the United States at birth."
Issues the defendants plan to raise on appeal are:
• Whether the district court erred in holding that the federal law pertaining to US nationals born in American Samoa is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.
• Whether the district court erred in entering injunctive relief that extends to all individuals born in American Samoa, rather than limiting its relief to the plaintiffs before the court.