The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case asking whether people born in American Samoa are entitled to birthright citizenship under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
The court’s decision to stay out of the case will bring disappointment to many who took the case and wanted the judges to overturn several opinions from a century ago – the so-called Insular Cases – which have been widely underestimated as disgusting relics. of the colonial past, because they were based on racism towards the residents of the territories.
John Fitisemanu, the lead plaintiff in the case, was born in American Samoa, but now lives in Utah. He holds a US passport and pays taxes, but is considered a “non-citizen US national” under immigration law. He has wanted to vote in federal and state elections, but has never been able to.
Notably, the government of American Samoa and the non-voting representatives of American Samoa in the US House of Representatives believed that the Supreme Court should not take up the case because “imposing birthright citizenship could have an unintended and potentially harmful effect on Americans.” Samoan society.’
Petitioners cite the Constitution’s Citizenship Clause, which states that “those born in and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States are citizens of the United States.” They were asking the Supreme Court to strike down a federal immigration law that removes all benefits of US citizenship.
“Those born in American Samoa,” they argue in court documents, “are labeled by the government as second-class. They are prohibited from running for office at the federal and state level, they are prohibited from serving on juries and they are denied the right to vote.”
They won at the district court level, but a divided panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, citing the Insular Cases.
Critics of the insular cases include Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote in a separate case last April that the cases have “no basis in the Constitution” and that the courts have “figured out a solution” to officially overturn them. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents were both originally from Puerto Rico, has been critical of the cases.
The Biden administration advised the justices to stay out of the case, insisting there was no reason to call the Insular Cases. Instead, the government has argued that Congress has always had “full authority” over the citizenship status of unclaimed territories. He noted that residents of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Virgin Islands have birthright citizenship as a result of an act of Congress.
“This longstanding congressional practice confirms that the Citizenship Clause does not grant citizenship to people born in territories such as American Samoa,” Attorney General Elizabeth Prelogar said in court documents. He called the Insular Cases “indefensible” but said the case would be a poor vehicle for examining their legality because the government doesn’t trust them.
This is the second time in recent years that the courts have declined to take up the issue of birthright citizenship for American Samoans. In 2016, the court denied a request by Leneuoti Fia Fia Tuaua, an American Samoan, to hear an appeal of a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the Constitution does not grant citizenship to those born in the United States. Samoa