Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is clarifying the intent of H.R. 6191, a bill he introduced to make it easier for U.S. nationals living in American Samoa to become U.S. citizens, if they so choose.
“Recently, the Governor has publicly expressed that he strongly opposes the legislation and, while I respect his right to oppose, I disagree with his position,” Faleomavaega said. “Also, given that the Governor has made statements that are not factual, I believe it is important to clear up the misinformation he has relayed to the newspapers and radio.”
“First, Governor Togiola states that H.R. 6191 will force U.S. citizenship on U.S. nationals. This is not true. H.R. 6191 is about choice, not force, and only applies to those U.S. nationals living in American Samoa who choose to become U.S. citizens if they wish to apply.”
“Secondly, the Governor states that this legislation is contrary to the findings of the Future Political Status Study Commission which recommended that American Samoa not seek U.S. citizenship for its people at this time. Again, this is false. H.R. 6191 does not make citizenship automatic for American Samoa’s people. H.R. 6191, which my staff hand-delivered to Governor Togiola’s office on June 7, 2008, states that the intent of this legislation is to allow nationals to become citizens by more expeditious means. In other words, it speeds up the process. It does not make citizenship automatic.”
“For those nationals who choose to become citizens, H.R. 6191 speeds up the process by doing away with certain requirements and treating nationals like nationals rather than foreigners. As the law now stands, in order for a national to become a citizen, our people must follow the same procedures as aliens, or foreigners, and this is not right since nationals owe permanent allegiance to the United States.”
“For nationals living in American Samoa, it is not right that our people are currently required to pass an English proficiency and civics exam given that American Samoa’s education system is patterned after that of public schools in the U.S.”
“Also, our people should not be required, as they now are, to move to the mainland to pass the residency requirement. Our people already live in a U.S. Territory and should not be subjected to the financial hardship and burdens of moving to California or Hawaii or elsewhere just to establish residency. While the Governor may believe that our people should be treated like foreigners and forced to move and take exams, I do not and this is where we disagree.”
“I believe the provisions of physical residency and exams should be waived, and this is what H.R. 6191 does. H.R. 6191 waives the requirements of physical residency but keeps in place all other provisions of section 316 as to good moral character, etc. H.R. 6191 also makes sure that U.S. nationals are required to file an application, complete an interview, be fingerprinted, take an oath and meet all other requirements as expressed in the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
“Regarding the Governor’s concerns about H.R. 6191 opening up the floodgate to foreigners, I am pleased that after all these years the Governor has finally agreed to stop the flow of foreigners entering the territory if H.R. 6191 is passed. If H.R. 6191 accomplishes nothing else, it has been well worth the effort because ASG should have closed the floodgate years ago. ASG’s weak immigration and corporate laws, which allow for sponsorship of foreigners, like Daewoosa, who set up shop and send their money back home, have brought embarrassment to our Territory and jeopardized our communal lands and customs. If ASG does not clean up its mess and establish fair laws for fair business, our people will lose everything.”
“Regarding the Governor’s point that he believes H.R. 6191 will lead to our people being drafted in the U.S. military, I would respectfully suggest that he review H.R. 6191. H.R. 6191 does not make anyone subject to the draft.”
“Finally, like the Governor, I welcome input, and I introduced this legislation based on the input of the people. Many of our people have requested my assistance because, like me, they believe U.S. nationals who choose to become citizens should be able to do so without being treated like foreigners in the process. This is why I introduced H.R. 6191, and stand by it, and intend to open it up for nationals living in the U.S. as well,” Faleomavaega concluded.