About Tuaua v. United States

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

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia


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 Photo credit: Lemala Photgraphy, courtesy CAC

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