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Oral arguments scheduled in American Samoa citizenship case

January 30, 2015

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., will be hearing oral arguments in a case involving citizenship rights of American Samoa residents.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Feb. 9.

In 2013, former Guam resident Neil Weare filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of American Samoa residents, arguing they have a right to be United States citizens. The lawsuit was thrown out but Weare appealed and some of the issues in the case were allowed to move forward.

The lawsuit centers on rights belonging to residents of U.S. territories. Congress has passed laws giving only specific rights to individual territories. For example, unlike Guam, those born in American Samoa aren’t U.S. citizens.

The case has ramifications for other territories because it also involves obtaining full representation in Congress, Pacific Daily News (http://ow.ly/Ib8Ex ) reported. Guam currently only has a non-voting delegate in Congress.

The United States has argued against citizenship for American Samoa residents. The American Samoa government also argues against it, because doing so could undermine local traditions and practices, including land ownership rights that are restricted to those with Samoan ancestry.

Some also argue that citizenship should be a choice for American Samoa residents and not mandatory.

Former Guam Gov. Carl Gutierrez is among those who submitted testimony in support of the American Samoa residents who filed the suit.

“It’s about time the federal government stops arguing that Guam and these other territories aren’t really part of the United States when it comes to important rights and benefits,” he said in a statement.

Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo also submitted testimony in support of the lawsuit. She said in a statement, “So long as Guam and other U.S. territories are part of the United States, citizenship by birth should be recognized as a right guaranteed by the Constitution, not a mere privilege extended by Congress.”


Information from: Pacific Daily News: http://www.guampdn.com

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