Hearing on appeal of birthright citizenship for American Samoans
Denver, COLORADO — Arguments will be heard Wednesday in an ongoing birthright citizenship case being appealed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice will argue in the appeals court to reverse a ruling in Fitisemanu v. United States, which recognized that individuals born in U.S. territories have the same right to citizenship as those born in the 50 states or the District of Columbia, a release from Equally American stated.
Lead plaintiff John Fitisemanu was born in American Samoa – a U.S. territory since 1900. For the last 20 years he has been a taxpaying, U.S. passport holding resident of Utah. However, based on a discriminatory federal law, he is labeled a “national, but not a citizen, of the United States.”
In December, a district court recognized that he is a natural-born U.S. citizen. The next day, Fitisemanu registered to vote. But because the district court later stayed its ruling pending appeal, Fitisemanu will be unable to vote in November unless the district court’s ruling is affirmed by the 10th Circuit.
“With an important election around the corner, I am hopeful the 10th Circuit will act quickly so that I will finally be able to vote,” Fitisemanu said in advance of the argument. “All my life I’ve met my obligations as an American, it is time I’m able to exercise my rights as a citizen.”
The Tenth Circuit arguments in Fitisemanu will be held via video conference. Audio of the argument will be streamed live and recorded at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYizIdJz2L4.
“It is astounding that 120 years after the U.S. flag first began flying over American Samoa and other island territories that the U.S. Department of Justice continues to argue that these places are not part of the ‘United States’ when it comes to the Constitution’s guarantee of birthright citizenship,” said Neil Weare, co-counsel in Fitisemanu and president and founder of Equally American, which advocates for equality and civil rights for the nearly 4 million Americans living in U.S. territories. “But what’s even more shocking is that DOJ is relying on a series of controversial and racist Supreme Court decisions that just this summer the Supreme Court said should not be expanded in this way.”
The 10th Circuit is unlikely to issue an immediate decision, with an opinion expected in the coming months. However the 10th Circuit rules, the case is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.