Aumua Pleased with U.S. Court Decision in Tuaua v. United States, but Wants Expedited Path for U.S. Nationals Who Seek Citizenship

June 5, 2015
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Friday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata, “I could not be more pleased with the decision of the courts today,” said Amata.  “It is our right to self-determination and the continuation of our unique history and culture that have won today,” stated Amata.

 

Aumua Amata with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at a recent Federalist Society luncheon, at which Scalia reaffirmed his strong belief in the federal system, which places significant decision making responsibility in the hands of the s
Aumua Amata with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at a recent Federalist Society luncheon, at which Scalia reaffirmed his strong belief in the federal system, which places significant decision making responsibility in the hands of the states and the people

 

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an historic ruling for the self-determination rights of the American Samoan people today.  In affirming the dismissal of claims brought by a public-interest group seeking birthright citizenship status for American Samoan nationals, the Court of Appeals recognized the importance of allowing the people of American Samoa to decide, through their own cultural and political processes, whether they wish to retain their special status as U.S. nationals. 

The ruling in Tuaua v. United States reaffirms the bedrock principle that the American Samoan people, and not outside interest groups or federal courts, should have the final say in matters concerning their political status.

As Judge Janice Rogers Brown noted in her opinion for the unanimous Court, it would be “anomalous to impose citizenship over the objections of the American Samoan people themselves, as expressed through their democratically elected representatives.”  The Court rejected the plaintiffs’ request to “forcibly impose a compact of citizenship -- with its concomitant rights, obligations, and implications for cultural identity -- on a distinct and unincorporated territory of people,” in the absence of a showing that the American Samoan people supported such a decision.

Both the ruling and the Court’s reasoning are a victory for those who support the principle that the American Samoan people have the authority to determine their own political status.

To hold the contrary, would have been to mandate an irregular intrusion into the autonomy of American Samoan democratic decision-making; an exercise of paternalism—if not overt cultural imperialism— offensive to the shared democratic traditions of the United States and American Samoa.

“Part of the problem with this case has been that many of our people have confused two separate issues: The status of nationals living in the territories and those living in the states.  The court has made it clear that citizenship of those nationals in American Samoa should be offered only when the people as a group decide they want it.  Now that the court has ruled, I will be offering “The American Samoa Freedom of Choice Act” in the near future which will address both of those issues,” concluded Amata.

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