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Two local film makers seeking thoughts & opinions on AS’ birthright citizenship

“PROJECT: U.S. Nationals”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The thoughts and opinions of community members, specifically US Nationals of Samoan descent, 18 years and older on the issue of American Samoa’s birthright citizenship, are being sought by two local filmmakers in an on-line application which goes ‘live’ starting today, Tuesday, 6 February, 2024.

They are Gabrielle Alafagamalufilufi “Gabby” Fa’ai’uaso of Fagatogo and Nu’uuli and John Falaniko “Niko” Patu of Nu’uuli and Pago Pago, and they are putting together a short film documentary which explores the issue in detail.

Gabby Fa’ai’uaso co-owns the production company called Fale Film with Tulaga Whitcombe, one of the pioneer filmmakers in the Territory.

Niko Patu is the Director/ Samoan Language Editor of Samoana Media, LLC, a media company “dedicated to producing quality content to inform and educate our people about our language and culture and the important issues affecting our Samoan and Pacific communities at home and abroad.”

The two have teamed up for this project which has been tentatively titled PROJECT: U.S. Nationals.

According to Fa’ai’uaso they are promoting an on-line application to invite the community, namely U.S. Nationals of Samoan descent 18 years and older to share their opinion on the matter.

“The goal is to get everyone’s voices, as different as they may and really try to understand what they know about the topic and how they feel about it, whether they want to naturalize or remain as they are,” she explained. “The film won’t necessarily tell you how to feel about it, we just want to explore what the community collectively feels. So we want to put it out there and ask people, what do you want and what do you understand about the topic.”

She revealed that the documentary explores the realm of what it means to be American and Samoan, because as a US National, one is not given all the rights that a US Citizen gets.

According to the Wikipedia website, “American Samoa is an unincorporated and unorganized territory of the United States administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior.

“Unique among U.S. territories, American Samoa has its own immigration law, separate from the laws that apply in other parts of the United States. U.S. nationals may freely reside in American Samoa.

“The American Samoan government, via its Immigration Office, controls the migration of foreign nationals to the islands. Special application forms exist for migration to American Samoa based on family or employment sponsorship.

“Unlike all other permanently inhabited U.S. jurisdictions (states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U. S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands), American Samoa is not considered a U.S. state for the purposes of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.

“As a result, there is no path for immigrants to American Samoa to apply for U.S. citizenship, or U.S. nationality at all, without permanent residence in another U.S. jurisdiction.

“In addition, foreign nationals who do have lawful permanent residence in the United States may be considered to have abandoned it if they have moved to live in American Samoa, and time spent there does not count in the required period of U.S. presence for naturalization.

“U.S. nationals without U.S. citizenship (the status of most American Samoans) have the right to reside in all parts of the United States without immigration restrictions. They also have the same rights as lawful permanent residents to sponsor foreign family members to immigrate to the United States (they may sponsor spouses and unmarried children), but not the same rights as U.S. citizens (who may also sponsor parents, married children, and siblings).”

Apart from immigration, there are also factors in its socio-political makeup that are closely linked with land tenure which makes it unique among U.S. territories.

Fa’ai’uaso pointed out that many American Samoans especially the younger generations do not know this or do not understand what their present status entails.

“So we want to give this opportunity to the people to speak up for themselves because the film will be for our people by our people,” she said.

“So you just log on to <> and it automatically takes you to our forum, then you just fill in your personal information and whether you support your present US National status, or you don’t, or you don’t know. And then explain why you feel that way.”

Patu added that the emphasis is on the community because the film is about the voices and the opinions of the community as a whole.

The online application starts today and will end in exactly seven days on February 13, 2024 to filter out those who are serious about participating.