Amata’s Statement on Appellate Decision

June 15, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Tuesday, Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata released the following statement regarding the appellate decision:

“Thank you first of all to the judges for their considered opinion that respected the people of American Samoa and the Samoan Way. Thank you to Mike Williams and the other attorneys at Kirkland & Ellis for their tireless work on behalf of American Samoa and the preservation of our family land and matai heritage. This is truly a blessing, and should set this issue to rest. American Samoa has the right of self-determination. We will continue to insist on our self-determination with great love for the United States. Congress should now act to pass my bill, H.R. 1941, so that U.S. Nationals who choose citizenship can quickly, sensibly and affordably make that change. Individuals should not have roadblocks to their self-determination if they choose citizenship. We thank God for this outcome and will continue to work for these next steps.

“Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal rejecting an almost identical lawsuit in 2016 and a decision by the Biden Administration just last week to continue to use the so-called Insular Cases as a basis for defending federal policy towards the territories, I am calling on the plaintiffs and the special interests behind them in this case to end their assault on the right of the American Samoa people to determine for themselves whether or not to become U.S. citizens.

“I have been very frustrated by this process, which was already underway when I took office in 2015 in the Tuaua case. My predecessor, Faleomavaega, was an intervenor in that suit and I readily agreed to replace him when he left office.  That suit, which was first filed in 2012, was rejected first by the district court, then by the Court of Appeals in 2015 and finally by the Supreme Court in 2016 by not hearing a further appeal.

“It seemed so straightforward to me at the time that this issue was for the people to decide that I thought the Supreme Court disposition of the case would be the end of it. So, I was surprised when the special interests, who apparently are looking for a path to national voting rights for territorial residents, found yet another plaintiff and another court to hear the same complaint all over again.

“If the special interests are truly interested in the citizenship status of our people, then I hope this court action is sufficient to convince them to take their complaint where it belongs – the government and the people of American Samoa. If special interests want Samoans in the states to have citizenship, then they should limit future legal action to Samoans in the states. Their efforts should not sweep up the people in the islands against their will.

“It is the height of irony that those claiming to right the wrongs of the past fail to see they are perpetuating them by seeking to override American Samoa’s precious self-determination from without.

“I can assure everyone that if these special interests persist in pursing this case to the full appellate court or to the Supreme Court, I will fight them all the way.  And thanks to President Biden’s decision last week, I will have Secretary of State Blinken and Attorney General Garland by my side.”