American Samoans are once again demanding to be considered US citizens at birth, wishing to shed the “US National” title in lieu of their exemplary service in the US Armed Forces.
Despite being a US territory like Puerto Rico or Guam, American Samoans are not granted US citizenship at birth. Instead, they are considered “US Nationals”- they can pay taxes, but cannot vote, serve on a jury, get a regular US Passport or even run for office.
Despite this, the people of the South Pacific’s American Samoa are generally considered quite patriotic, with many serving in the Armed Forces. Be it for opportunity, adventure, patriotism or to speed up the naturalization process, Samoans have a reputation for being hardened, capable and reliable warfighters.
Leneuoti Tuaua, a former marshal of the High Court of American Samoa, stresses, “If we are equal in times of war to serve in the US Armed Forces, we should be equal to others born in the United States when it comes to citizenship.”
While Samoans serve with distinction in the US Military, they cannot be officers or pursue other career paths unless they secure US citizenship first, according to an advisory released by US Congresswoman Amua Amata Coleman Radewagen, a Republican who represents American Samoa.
“Carious advancements within the military ranks, such as security clearances and serving as a commissioned officer, do require citizenship,” she said earlier this month.
Many American Samoans are pushing for naturalization, both in the form of petitions and lawsuits. In one recent case, American Samoan-born Utah residents John Fitisemanu, Pale Tuli and Rosavita Tuli filed a lawsuit last month, claiming they are entitled to citizenship under the US Constitution.
The US Secretary of State and State Department were named as defendants in the complaint and had up until May 29 to file a response, according to Radio New Zealand.
The Supreme Court has refused to hear similar cases, leaving intact the lower court ruling that the 14th amendment does not apply to unincorporated territories like American Samoa. If the current lawsuit fails, another option would be to go through Congress, decreeing American Samoan citizenship by statute.
Regardless of the outcome, one thing is for certain- the service and sacrifices of American Samoan servicemembers in the US Military is certainly a factor that cannot be overlooked.
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