Congressman Faleomavaega today announced that Tuaua v. U.S. (the “Citizenship lawsuit”) has been dismissed by Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are five non-citizen U.S. nationals born in American Samoa and the Samoan Federation of America, a nonprofit organization serving the Samoan community in Los Angeles. The defendants are the United States, the State Department, the Secretary of State, and the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs. The plaintiffs brought the lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that would assert the Fourteenth Amendment’s Citizenship Clause extends to American Samoa. Congressman Faleomavaega submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the defendants. Judge Leon granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss on June 26, 2013 after finding that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim.
“The plaintiffs in the Citizenship lawsuit sought to reverse years of legal precedent that has provided for the stable administration of the U.S. territories. Judge Leon found the plaintiffs’ arguments unpersuasive in face of overwhelming legal and constitutional evidence indicating the Citizenship Clause does not guarantee birthright citizenship to American Samoans,” Faleomavaega stated.
“The decision today by Judge Leon is a victory for all Samoans. The decision ensures our culture placed in danger by the application of the Citizenship Clause to our territory. The decision also reaffirms Congress’ plenary power of Congress to provide for citizenship for persons born in U.S. territories,” Faleomavaega said.
“I will like to thank Michael Williams, Thea Cohen and Michael Fragoso of Kirkland & Ellis, LLP a group of talented attorneys who prepared my amicus brief on a pro bono basis and provided a vigorous defense for the preservation of American Samoan culture,” Faleomavaega said.
“I am not opposed to citizenship for American Samoans; however the decision should be made by the people and not by a court. After the people decide they desire citizenship, I can work with Congress on legislation to provide citizenship for persons born in American Samoa. Judge Leon in his decision reaffirmed the plenary authority of Congress to grant citizenship to people in American Samoa by citing Congress’ authority under the U.S. Constitution, Article IV Section 3, cl. 2 (“Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory belonging to the United States.”; and Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 (Congress may “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization…” Judge Leon concluded his decision by stating that since Congress has not yet acted to bestow citizenship upon American Samoa, in accordance with the law, the Court must and will respect that choice. I thank Judge Leon for making crystal clear that the sole authority to grant citizenship to persons born in American Samoa belongs to Congress.” Faleomavaega concluded.