Review in Tuaua v. United States denied, leaving unresolved question of equal citizenship in U.S. territories.
CONSTITUTION CHECK: ARE THE INSULAR CASES STILL BINDING AFTER A CENTURY?
A more direct test of the continuing effect of the Insular Cases came in a case taken to the Justices by a group of individuals born in American Samoa, and seeking “birthright citizenship” under the Fourteenth Amendment. Legal and political science professors had joined them in urging the court to overturn the Insular Cases as out of date, given modern human rights understandings.
Imperialism has left tricky sovereignty questions with which the U.S. Supreme Court is only now reckoning.
American Samoa is the one territory where Americans aren’t even citizens. They are U.S. nationals, a third-class status that requires them to immigrate if they move to the mainland, despite living under the stars and stripes, carrying U.S. passports and proudly defending the rights and liberties denied to them as separate and unequal Americans.
American Samoans seeking U.S. citizenship are taking stock after the U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear their case to be recognized as U.S. citizens at birth.
A ruling in Puerto Rico v. Franklin California Tax-Free Trust and a denial of review for Tuaua v. United States on Monday effectively ended a budding theory of self-determination in these areas and confirmed a federal legal view of territories that was established during the height of American imperialism.
The American Samoans seeking citizenship hoped the court would overturn earlier rulings based on racist old case law.
"The real significance of this morning's denial of review has everything to do with the continuing relevance of the Insular cases," Vladeck said. "Despite wide-ranging criticisms that those rulings reflect an outdated, if not racist, approach to constitutional protections in the territories, the court of appeals extended their reasoning to also apply to birthright citizenship, and the Supreme Court today left that ruling intact."
Claiming they have been relegated to second-class status, some American Samoans are asking the Supreme Court to correct a historic wrong and overturn a century-old law that denies them the right to be U.S. citizens at birth.
How is it possible that a question as basic as who is a citizen at birth under our Constitution remains unresolved in a place subject to the sovereignty of the United States? To understand, you have to dive into the muck that is the law of the United States territories.
Soon, the Supreme Court will decide whether to take a case of astounding constitutional importance. Its outcome could alter the rules governing citizenship, equal protection, and the power of the federal government. And it centers around a tiny chain of islands that you probably cannot find on a map. The question: Can Congress decide that an entire group of Americans—born in America, raised in America, allegiant to America—does not deserve United States citizenship?
Before the justices adjourn for the summer, they may consider whether to grant review next term in Tuaua v. United States. Lene Tuaua, four others born in American Samoa and the Samoan Federation of America ask the high court whether the Constitution’s citizenship clause entitles persons born in American Samoa—a U.S. territory—to birthright citizenship.
American Samoans are the only people born on US soil who are denied birthright citizenship. Five people from the island territory are suing the federal government, arguing that this deprivation violates the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship to "[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."