Senate Concurrent Resolution supports ruling in citizenship case
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A Senate Concurrent Resolution introduced last week Thursday in the Senate, expresses the support of the Legislature for itself and on behalf of the people of American Samoa, for the Federal Court of Appeals ruling in “respecting the right of the American Samoan people to retain our current statutory birthright status as U.S Nationals.”
The 10-page resolution, sponsored by Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean, is referring to the June 15th ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, in the Fitisemanu v. United States case, which reversed a lower court’s ruling. (See Samoa News online June 16th for details of the appeal’s court ruling.)
According to the resolution, the decision by the 10th Circuit confirms that,“the U.S. Congress properly has conferred statutory birthright U.S. nationality on persons born in American Samoa.”
It points out that, “if desired in the future we retain the right to petition Congress through local self-government and self-determination for a chance in our legal and political status so that of statutory birthright [in] U.S as defined by Congress in federal statutes citizenship.”
Furthermore, contrary to the “false narrative” of the Fitisemanu case, “our birthright U.S National status is not a form of ‘second class citizenship’ for American Samoans.”
Tuaolo — who assigned the non-binding measure to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review — informed senators that the resolution was a commendation from Congresswoman Uifa’atali Aumua Amata to show support for the government and people of American Samoa for the Court of Appeals’ reversal of a lower court ruling on the Fitisemanu vs United States case.
The resolution states, in part, that the Deed of Cession in effect from April 17, 1900 provides that the U.S government “shall respect and protect the individual rights of all people dwelling in Tutuila to their lands and other property.”
And the Deed of Cession provides that “the enactment of legislation and the General Control shall remain firm with the United States of America.”
According to the resolution, the Legislature, in its Second Regular Session of 2021 “unanimously EXPRESSES concern that rule of law and informed democratic self-determination in American Samoa are undermined by disinformation narratives advanced by special interest lobbyists and lawyers for plaintiffs in Fitisemanu [case].”
Through the resolution, the Fono calls on the U.S based group, “Equally American”, and its affiliates to “cease disingenuously distorting in the federal courts and in national media the history and meaning of federal jurisprudence and statutory law defining the status and rights of Americans born in territories so that inequality and inequities inherent in the less than fully self-governing status of territories can be addressed through informed democratic self-determination on legally valid political status options, according to the diverse aspirations of the people in each territory”.
It request plaintiffs in the Fitisemanu case “to reconsider and elect to proceed no further... efforts to gain a federal court decision that threatens American Samoa’s right to self-determination by imposing U.S citizenship as currently conferred under the 14th Amendment in the States on persons born and living in American Samoa without” their consent.
And the Fono invites those representing special interests supporting the lawyers in the Fitisemanu case “to visit American Samoa to meet with our elected and traditional leaders, visit with the people in our villages, and if convinced that people want U.S citizenship to be conferred by the U.S Congress, work within the existing governmental processes to hold a referendum on the subject.”
In conclusion, the resolution says that the Fono on behalf of itself and the people of the territory support federal legislation offered by Uifa’atali to facilitate the process for a U.S. national, who “voluntarily seeks” to become a U.S. citizen.
Equally American advocates for equal rights in U.S. territories and its founder, Neil Weare served as co-counsel to the Fitisemanu plaintiffs.
“We are considering our options moving forward in light of the Tenth Circuit’s decision to ignore the Supreme Court’s recent guidance narrowing the application of the Insular Cases in U.S. territories,” he said in the statement. (See Samoa News edition June 17th for details.)
The statement and other information on the group is found online (https://www.equalrightsnow.org).
The Senate concurrent resolution disagrees with the group’s website, which states in part that Equally American “brings together the voices of the nearly 4 million Americans who live in U.S territories — Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Island — which is demonstrably false in the case of American Samoa...”