Congressman Faleomavaega today announced his continued strong opposition to the efforts to use the judicial system to force citizenship upon every person who is born in American Samoa.
On July 10, 2012, a lawsuit was filed by Murad Hussain of Arnold & Porter LLP, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Mr. Hussain represents several plaintiffs born in American Samoa, and the Samoan Federation of America located in Carson, California. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking a declaratory judgment from the court that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution should apply to American Samoa. The plaintiffs are also seeking an injunction to prevent the U.S. Department of State from imprinting Endorsement Code 09 on passports of persons born in American Samoa noting that the “Bearer is a U.S. National and Not a U.S. Citizen. A copy of the complaint or lawsuit can be found at this link: http://www.house.gov/faleomavaega/pdfs/1-main.pdf.
“I respect the rights of the plaintiffs, who were born in American Samoa, to file their lawsuit. I also appreciate the frustration of the Samoan Federation of America that struggles to meet the needs of Samoans who are U.S. nationals who cannot vote in national elections and are precluded from certain jobs that requires U.S. citizenship. However, I believe the choice of becoming a U.S. citizen belongs to the people of American Samoa, and not by judicial legislation,” Faleomavaega said.
“I have sent letters to the leadership of the Fono, both the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House, that summarizes the lawsuit that was filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In the letters I further reiterated my opposition to the lawsuit which if successful will force citizenship upon everyone born in American Samoa.” Faleomavaega added.
“The future of our territory is being threatened by outside forces and we must unite in our opposition to this lawsuit. I firmly believe the future of American Samoa should be decided by the people living in the territory, not by a court 7,000 miles away,” Faleomavaega concluded
The full text of the Congressman’s letter to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House is included below:
I am writing to bring to your attention a lawsuit that was filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of several persons born in American Samoa. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking a declaratory judgment from the court that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution should apply to American Samoa. The plaintiffs are also seeking an injunction to prevent the U.S. Department of State from imprinting Endorsement Code 09 on passports of persons born in American Samoa noting that the “Bearer is a U.S. National and Not a U.S. Citizen”.
The lawsuit, filed against the United States of America, the U.S. Department of State, the Secretary of State and the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, could have significant ramifications on America Samoa’s political relationship with the U.S. government. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs and the Citizenship Clause is applied to American Samoa, this will set the precedent for other provisions of the U.S. Constitution to be applied in the Territory. This is a cause for concern as the courts may invalidate any of our local laws that protect our Matai system and communal lands.
For years, I have warned the people of American Samoa of the dangers of outside forces determining the future of our territory. The lawsuit filed this week is the manifestation of our greatest fear, that citizenship will be forced upon us and we could lose our Matai system and communal lands. For example, in King v. Andrus, 452 F. Supp. 11 (D.D.C. 1977), a federal court applied the jury system to the American Samoa judiciary system against our will.
This week a federal court is again asked to decide an issue critical to American Samoa, whether American Samoans should be considered U.S. citizens. We must ask ourselves do we want a court to decide whether we become citizens or do we want to decide our own destiny.
I respect the right of the plaintiffs to file this lawsuit. However, I believe the issue of citizenship should be decided by the people currently living in American Samoa and who plan on remaining in American Samoa. Since any potential negative consequences of citizenship being granted to all persons born in American Samoa will affect persons living in American Samoa not those living in the United States. For those living in the United States, there are existing pathways to citizenship that allow them to become U.S. Citizens. There is also a fee waiver available for some individuals who are not able to pay filing fee for the naturalization application.
I have enclosed a copy of the complaint. My hope is for a thorough review by the Fono on this important issue. I will also make the complaint available for download on my website at http://www.house.gov/faleomavaega/pdfs/1-main.pdf.