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Oral arguments heard on citizenship lawsuit — opinion coming ASAP


Salt Lake City, UTAH — After hearing oral arguments this week, a federal judge in Salt Lake City, Utah has taken under submission and will issue a written opinion “as soon as possible” in the US citizenship case filed by three US nationals living in Utah, according to federal court records.

The citizenship lawsuit was filed in March this year by three American Samoans — John Fitisemanu, Pale Tuli and Rosavita Tuli — who argue, among other things, that because they were born in American Samoa, a US territory, they are entitled to citizenship under the 14th Amendment, the Citizenship clause of the US Constitution.

The plaintiffs, including the Southern Utah Islander Coalition, sought summary judgement in their favor.

The lawsuit was filed against federal defendants including top officials of the US Department of State, who sought to dismiss the complaint, arguing in court documents that Congress has the authority to grant citizenship to outlying US territories including American Samoa. Federal defendants also sought to grant their motion.

The federal court later added the American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Aumua Amata, as movant defendants who argued, among other things, that American Samoans should decide this issue and not a federal court miles away. Plaintiffs were against ASG and the Congresswoman for being parties to the complaint.

According to court records, US District Court Judge Clark Waddoups heard arguments on the motions from all sides as well as discussions on Wednesday this week. “The Court took the matter under submission and will issue a written opinion as soon as possible,” according to court records after the hearing, for which the transcript is not yet available for review and purchase. 

Local traditional leaders have made known publicly their wishes for this important matter to be decided in American Samoa.

The case is again being monitored locally and off island, with many wanting to know the outcome before the end of the year. Samoa News continues to receive many local and off island inquiries on the status and/or outcome of this case.

It's unclear when the court will issue a decision, although the federal court in Washington D.C. had dismissed a similar case more than three years ago, and that decision was later upheld by an appeal’s court.