Ads by Google Ads by Google

Oral arguments in US citizenship lawsuit set for next month

Photo of U.S. National passport

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The US citizenship lawsuit filed by three American Samoans living in Utah is moving forward, with the federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah setting oral arguments for November — after the midterm elections — while the American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Aumua Amata have filed a new motion arguing again the importance of protecting the fa’a Samoa or Samoa culture.

This case, for which the US State Department and its senior officials are defendants, has drawn a lot of mixed reactions from individuals residing both in the territory and off island, with ASG and the Congresswoman maintaining that the citizenship issue should be decided by the people of America Samoa, not the federal court.

According to federal court records, US District Judge Clark Waddoups will hear oral arguments on Nov. 14th on three motions:

•     Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment for themselves, including the group, Southern Utah Pacific Islanders Coalition;

•     Defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim and in the alternative summary judgment for the defendants; and

•     Intervenor-defendants ASG and the Congresswoman’s motion filed Sept. 10th to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim and deny Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment as moot. In the alternative, the Court should deny Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, and grant Defendants’ and Intervenors’ cross-motions for summary judgment, on all claims.

With the oral arguments hearing date set, ASG and the Congresswoman last Friday filed a new motion to support their request for the court to dismiss the complaint, claiming that the plaintiffs “decline to respond substantively to, or engage in any way” with ASG and the Congresswoman’s arguments already filed in court.

“And nowhere in plaintiffs’ prior pleadings do they sufficiently address why the Court should ignore the position of the Intervenors and impose U.S. citizenship on all American Samoans—over the objections of their democratically elected representatives and despite their unique cultural and historical circumstance.”

In contrast to plaintiffs’ position, the Intervenors said, the US Supreme Court precedent directly invites the Court to consider American Samoan culture and the potential effect of imposition of U.S. citizenship by judicial fiat.

“As this Court recognized, this case involves the question of ‘whether, under the Insular Cases framework, persons born in American Samoa are entitled to a fundamental right to citizenship’,” they said citing a quote from the court’s ruling last month allowing ASG and the Congresswoman “permissive intervention" in the case.

Under this framework, courts consider whether imposing birthright citizenship “would be ‘impracticable and anomalous’,” considering the “particular circumstances” of American Samoa, according to the Intervenors, who argued that it had described at length, in its motion filed last month, multiple aspects of fa’a Samoa that are unique to American Samoa which could be jeopardized by a decision imposing citizenship that it does not want.

“Nowhere do plaintiffs dispute any of the aspects of fa’aSamoa described by Intervenors,” they argued. “Because of these unique traditional aspects alone, it would be impractical and anomalous for the Court to impose U.S. citizenship upon American Samoa against its will.

“But moreover, imposing U.S. citizenship — and all the privileges and responsibilities associated with it — on all American Samoans would constitute ‘an exercise of paternalism — if not overt cultural imperialism — offensive to the shared democratic traditions of the United States and modern American Samoa’.”