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American Samoa leaders' fears over US citizenship challenged

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PAGO PAGO (RNZ Pacific/Pacnews) — A Samoan group in the United States is challenging American Samoan leaders who are concerned at attempts to seek U.S. citizenship as a birthright.

The Samoan Federation of America said concerns over the impact of birthright citizenship for people born in American Samoa "are misplaced."

The federation argues that the U.S. Constitution provides an individual's right to be a citizen and is "not subject to the views of elected officials."

The claims were made in an "amicus curiae" brief filed recently in support of three Utah based American Samoans whose citizenship case is being challenged.

The defendants — the U.S. State Department and the American Samoa government — in April appealed a Utah federal court decision that "Persons born in American Samoa are citizens of the U.S. by virtue of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."

The Samoan Federation is of the opinion that persons born in American Samoa when and since the U.S. took possession of the islands in 1900 are U.S. citizens under the U.S. Constitution and not given the federal government's legal status label of "non-citizen national."

“The historical record is clear that this second-class status was motivated by racial animus towards the native-born inhabitants of American Samoa and other overseas territories,” the federation argued in its brief to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Despite, this "second-class status, American Samoans have remained loyal and patriotic Americans who have never wavered in their desire to remain part of the United States," the federation said.

They mooted that concerns that birthright citizenship “presents a threat to American Samoan self-determination or cultural preservation are misplaced. And the question of self-determination for the American Samoan people to decide, is whether to be a part of the United States, a question that continues to be answered in the affirmative,” they said.

“So long as the United States flag flies over American Samoa, the U.S. Constitution provides an individual right to be recognized as a citizen that is not subject to the views of elected officials,” the federation stated.

“To the extent American Samoa's land ownership rules or cultural protections raise constitutional concerns, these concerns exist separate and apart from whether American Samoans are recognized as citizens or non-citizen nationals.”

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