Lene Tuaua is a proud American.
Because he was born in American Samoa though, the federal government does not recognize him as a citizen. Instead, he is labeled with the subordinate status of “non-citizen national.
American Samoa has been a part of the United States for 112 years. It has the highest rate of military service of any jurisdiction in America, yet Americans born there are required to naturalize in order to be recognized as citizens.
Mr. Tuaua, along with seven other people born in American Samoa and the Samoan Federation of America, is defending his family’s right to citizenship in federal court.
The argument in Tuaua v. United States is simple: the Citizenship Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that “All persons born . . . in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” Federal laws and policies that deny citizenship to people born in American Samoa violate this Clause.
Contrary to the text and history of the Citizenship Clause, the United States argues that Congress has the power to exclude Americans born in U.S. territories from the Constitution’s guarantee of citizenship based on the controversial Insular Cases doctrine. But as the Supreme Court recently wrote in Boumediene v. Bush, “[t]he Constitution grants Congress and the President the power to acquire, dispose of, and govern territory, not the power to decide when and where its terms apply.”
The case is currently on appeal before the D.C. Circuit.
For more information about the case and its potential impact, visit our FAQ page.
History of the Case
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
- December 4, 2014, Scheduling Order for Oral Argument, Monday, February 9, 2015, 9:30 a.m.
- October 8, 2014, Reply Brief, filed by Tuaua Plaintiffs
- August 25, 2014, Brief of Intervenor/Amici Congressman Faleomavaega and American Samoa Government
- August 11, 2014, Brief of Appellee, filed by United States (Addendum)
- May 12, 2014, Brief of of Citizenship Scholars as Amici Curiae, represented by Gibson Dunn.
- May 12, 2014, Brief of Members of Congress and Former Government Officials as Amici Curiae, represented by Covington & Burling.
- May 12, 2014, Brief of David Cohen as Amicus Curiae, represented by Jenner & Block.
- May 12, 2014, Brief of Scholars of Constitutional Law and Legal History as Amici Curaie, represented by Wilmer Hale.
- April 25, 2014, Brief of Plaintiffs-Appellants, filed by Tuaua Plaintiffs (Joint Appendix).
- February 4, 2014, Order Denying Motion for Summary Affirmance, Judges Tatel, Brown, and Pillard.
- December 6, 2013 - Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Affirmance, filed by United States.
- November 22, 2013 - Opposition to Motion for Summary Affirmance, filed by Tuaua Plaintiffs.
- October 25, 2013 - Motion for Summary Affirmance, filed by United States.
- October 17, 2013, Reply to Response to Motion to Intervene, filed by Congressman Faleomavaega.
- October 9, 2013, Response to Motion to Intervene, filed by Tuaua Plaintiffs.
- September 26, 2013 - Motion to Intervene, or in the Alternative, For Leave to Participate as Amicus Curiae, filed by Congressman Faleomavaega.
- August 27, 2013 - Docketed as Case Number 13-5272.
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
- June 26, 2013 - Memorandum Opinion by Judge Richard Leon (D.D.C.) granting motion to dismiss.
- December 17, 2012 – Hearing before Judge Richard Leon (D.D.C.) on Motion to Dismiss (oral argument transcript).
- December 12, 2012 - Reply as amicus curiae in Support of Defendants, filed by Congressman Faleomavaega
- December 12, 2012 - Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss, filed by United States.
- December 7, 2012 - Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, filed by Tuaua Plaintiffs.
- November 8, 2012 – Amicus curiae brief in support of Defendants, filed by Congressman Faleomavaega.
- November 8, 2012 – Motion to Dismiss, filed by United States.
- July 10, 2012 – Complaint, filed by Tuaua Plaintiffs.