Samoa
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“CITIZENSHIP QUESTION IS NOT UNRESOLVED”

Dear Editor: 

Your October 19th, page one story on the Fitisemanu court case quotes attorney Charles V. Ala'ilima as saying the Supreme Court “has yet again left unresolved the question of whether people born in American Samoa are U.S. citizens."  No it hasn't.   

When the U.S. Supreme Court rejects further appeal that answers the question. It means the last court of appeal ruling becomes the law of the land. In this case that means people born in American Samoa are not U.S. citizens, but can acquire citizenship by applying for it in a state.    

It also means the 14th Amendment and the rest of the U.S Constitution apply directly and fully in states not territories, so nationals residing in American Samoa have the same rights as “citizens” residing in the other territories, and both nationals and citizens in territories must move to a state to have full and equal rights of citizenship.

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal by lawyers, lobbyists and political propagandists who tried to use the courts to impose a judicially invented citizenship status (without equal citizenship rights) on all persons born in American Samoa.  

That means that for the second time both a federal court of appeals and the U.S Supreme Court have left standing appellate court rulings rejecting the juvenile argument that Americans in territories have the same rights and status as American in the states. Incorporated and unincorporated territories have different rights, but neither have equal rights, whether labeled nationals or citizens. 

Do we really have to tutor the Fitisemanu lawyers that the 14th Amendment is just one of many provisions of the U.S Constitution that do not apply in unincorporated territories the same as in incorporated territories and the states. The uniform taxation, interstate commerce clause, equal protection and due process clauses are among those that don’t apply in territories as in states.  Federal voting and full representational rights apply only in states.

The U.S Supreme Court has four new new members who were not sitting justices when the appeal of the Tuaua case also was turned down. At least four justices of the nine justices must agree to hear an appeal before the court will accept it. 

This case could not even attract that number. 

Moreover, even though this court has two members at the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum who publicly have expressed opposition to the Insular Cases, neither they nor any other member took advantage of the opportunity to voice dissent when the Court made public its decision on Monday.  

One would hope this would send a clear signal to special interests attempting to override the ability of American Samoans to determine their relationship with the United States to leave American Samoans alone. 

Contending that the required act of self-determination to define that community’s status differently than any other territory was lost when the chiefs decided 122 years ago to sign the deed of cession is an imperialist insult to free people. Asking a court to do that even if the people oppose it makes the Fitisemanu lawyers no less colonialist than the judges who authored the Insular Cases. 

Resting their case on racist language in the Insular Cases, which they want to overturn, was a mistake because the court looked at the law of the Insular Cases not the ideology of the court members. 

The Biden Administration did not need to rely on the Insular Cases to rule that the Fitisemanu lawyers’ were misreading the 14th Amendment as applicable to territories. It was all about self-determination which, even as recently as last week in a speech at the United Nations a U.S. diplomat said "The U.S. recognizes its obligations under Article 73(e) of the Charter to promote self-determination for the peoples of American Samoa...”  

Frankly, ironically, the appalling attempt of outsiders through the federal court system to interfere with our self-determination is the real abuse of white privilege.  And it is plainly unconscious if not overt racism at play in this anti-democratic scheme to change the status of other territories aspiring to be more like states, and to do so by sacrificing the indigenous rights of American Samoans.    

Rather than shop for new clients and argue their case in a new court for the third time, the special interests should do it the right way.

Come down to American Samoa, find enough members of our Fono to pass a bill to put the citizenship question before the voters in a referendum and accept the results. 

If they cannot find enough legislators, then they should go to the voters and ask them to elect new legislators who will authorize such a referendum. As the old saying goes "Put up or shut up.”

Let's be clear. This is not about opposing U.S citizenship for nationals living in American Samoa. If the voters requested citizenship through an act of self-determination, an appropriate bill would be filed in Congress the next day.

In the meantime, if they want citizenship for nationals in the states who for whatever reason do not want to apply for it themselves, then by all means they should go to court again but limit their suit just to their clients. Leave us alone down here in American Samoa.    

Sincerely,

Uifa'atali Amata