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Wed Jun 16, 2021, 03:32 PM

10th Circuit Reverses US District Utah Decision On American Samoan US Citizenship

2-1 Decision here:


For over a century, the land of American Samoa has been an American territory, but its people have never been considered American citizens. Plaintiffs, three citizens of American Samoa, asked the district court in Utah to upend this longstanding arrangement and declare that American Samoans have been citizens from the start. The district court agreed and so declared. Appellants, the United States federal government joined by the American Samoan government and an individual representative acting as intervenors, ask us to reverse the district court’s decision. We conclude that neither constitutional text nor Supreme Court precedent demands the district court’s interpretation of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

We instead recognize that Congress plays the preeminent role in the determination of citizenship in unincorporated territorial lands, and that the courts play but a subordinate role in the process. We further understand text, precedent, and historical practice as instructing that the prevailing circumstances in the territory be considered in determining the reach of the Citizenship Clause. It is evident that the wishes of the territory’s democratically elected representatives, who remind us that their people have not formed a consensus in favor of American citizenship and urge us not to impose citizenship on an unwilling people from a courthouse thousands of miles away, have not been taken into adequate consideration. Such consideration properly falls under the purview of Congress, a point on which we fully agree with the concurrence. These circumstances advise against the extension of birthright citizenship to American Samoa. We reverse.


Much more at link.

Some useful background:


Why some American Samoans don't want U.S. citizenship

Some are concerned they could lose their indigenous political system and land rights, comparing it to what’s happened to Native Hawaiians.


Line-Noue Memea Kruse, author of "The Pacific Insular Case of American Samoa," said ending American Samoans’ distinct status as “noncitizen U.S. nationals” may eventually lead federal judges to rule that their customary political system and land rights are unconstitutional, comparing it to what has happened to Native Hawaiians in Hawaii.

In American Samoa, there are two distinct components to governance: the traditional chiefly system, the Fa’amatai, and communal lands, where land ownership is held by families. Acquiring land in American Samoa also requires people to be at least 50 percent Samoan.

“There’s no nobility in America,” said Kruse, when talking about the Fa’amatai political system. “There would be continuous lawsuits, because our customs are contrary, and it is anomalous to the United States.”


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