Congressman Faleomavaega sent a letter to Governor Lolo and copied the Fono leaders and members informing of an anticipated ruling in the Tuaua v. U.S. (Citizenship Lawsuit). A hearing on the case was held in Washington D.C. on December 17, 2012, and a ruling is expected within the next six months. Congressman Faleomavaega informed Governor Lolo that it is possible for the American Samoa Government (ASG) to intervene in the case as an interested party.
“I have made it clear in my previous statements that I am opposed to the Citizenship lawsuit because it puts the decision of the future of American Samoa into the hands of a federal court rather than our people,” Faleomavaega said.
“The lawsuit if successful could apply the entire U.S. Constitution to American Samoa thereby endangering our communal lands and matai titles. If the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution applies to American Samoa, it will make it possible for anyone to file lawsuits to challenge local laws that provide land and matai titles only to persons of Samoan ancestry,”
“I do not oppose birthright citizenship for the people of American Samoa. If the majority of American Samoans want to become birthright citizens, I will work with Congress to grant citizenship to people born in American Samoa. However, I do oppose a federal court deciding the future of American Samoa without the consent of people in American Samoa,” Faleomavaega continued.
“I invite ASG to intervene in the Citizenship lawsuit to represent the people of American Samoa. This will ensure that the decision to become U.S. citizens remain with the people in American Samoa, rather than by a federal court.” Faleomavaega concluded.
The full text of the Congressman’s letter to Governor Lolo and the Fono is included below:
I write regarding Tuaua v. United States, an important federal court case awaiting a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. This case has strong implications regarding the traditional way of life in American Samoa. The lawsuit was filed on July 10, 2012 by the Constitutional Accountability Center, a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C., American Samoa attorney Charles Ala’ilima, and Arnold & Porter LLP. The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment from the Court that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should apply to American Samoa. A hearing was held on December 12, 2012 on the Defendants’ motion to dismiss before Judge Richard Leon and a ruling is anticipated within the next six months.
The lawsuit poses a threat to our traditional culture. If the Court applies the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the territory, it is unknown if the entire U.S. Constitution will apply to American Samoa. Additionally, if people born in American Samoa become automatic U.S. citizens, it is likely that the U.S. will take control of the immigration system in American Samoa. It is important that the people of American Samoa decide, and not the Court, whether they wish to become U.S. citizens by birthright. With the assistance of pro bono counsel Michael Williams of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, I submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Court in support of the United States. The amicus brief outlined the flaws in the Plaintiff’s arguments, as well as the dangers that American Samoan culture would face if the entire U.S. Constitution applied to the territory.
It is expected that this matter will be appealed regardless if the Court rules for the Plaintiffs or Defendants. Mr. Williams has informed me of the possibility of the American Samoa Government (ASG) participating as an intervenor should an appeal be filed. As an intervenor, ASG will become a party to the litigation and have a better chance of being heard by the Court than if ASG submitted an amicus curiae brief. In order to intervene, ASG must make a timely application to the Court to be heard.