22 May 2018

US-based Samoan group seeks citizenship

9:20 am on 22 May 2018

A California-based Samoan organisation, which is arguing for automatic US citizenship for persons born in American Samoa, is being allowed to file a "friend of the court brief" at the federal court in Utah, where a complaint is pending against the US State Department and other federal officials.

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Photo: 123rf

The Samoan Federation of America is supporting the complaint filed in March by plaintiffs, John Fitisemanu, Pale Tuli and Rosavita Tuli - all born in American Samoa but living in Utah.

Plaintiffs recently asked the court for an "order granting judgment in their favor", arguing among other things, that because they were born in American Samoa, a US territory, they were entitled to citizenship under the US Constitution.

The Samoan Federation president Loa Pele Faletogo said that in the absence of such recognition, people born in American Samoa were citizens of nowhere.

Loa argued that American Samoans deserved better.

Established in 1969, the federation serves Samoans living in the greater Los Angeles area

In its 'Amicus Curiae' or friend of the court briefing, the Samoan Federation said that recognition of citizenship was critical to the political and economic empowerment of American Samoan communities throughout the US.

The federation alleges that discriminatory federal laws that require American Samoans to naturalize to be recognized as US citizens "create significant barriers to the political participation of American Samoans living in Utah and other states, in effect serving as a poll tax, literacy test, voter identification requirement, and felon disenfranchisement provision all rolled into one."

It also claims that the "historical record is clear that this second-class status - non-citizen U.S. national - was motivated by racial animus towards the native-born inhabitants of American Samoa and other overseas territories."

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