On February 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the federal government’s request that the lawsuit Tuaua v U.S.A. be summarily rejected. The issue is whether persons born in American Samoa are citizens by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United State.” Old U.S. Supreme Court precedents from 1901 say that clause does not relate to persons born in U.S. territories. Although Congress has passed laws granting automatic citizenship to the other U.S. overseas territories, Congress has never done that for Americans Samoans. They are only U.S. “nationals”, not citizens.
Persons born in American Samoa who live in one of the 50 states are therefore not able to register to vote, unless they undergo the naturalization process. Two of the plaintiffs live in one of the 50 states and would like to register to vote in those states.
The U.S. District Court in this case had rejected the case, but the U.S. Court of Appeals refused to summarily affirm the district court decision, and said the issues are not clear-cut, and the case deserves full briefing and, probably, an oral argument. The court order is only one page long and is signed by Judges David Tatel, Janice Rogers Brown, and Cornelia Pillard. Thanks to Rick Hasen for this news. Here is a link to a press release by the plaintiffs.