What are the consequences of American Samoans being denied recognition as citizens?


Based on a discriminatory federal law, people born in American Samoa are labeled with the inferior status "non-citizen national" rather than recognized as citizens as required by the U.S. Constitution.  The affects of the distinction between citizen and non-citizen national are most strongly felt by American Samoans who have moved stateside for educational and economic opportunities. 


"Non-citizen nationals" living in the states are unable to vote in federal, state, and local elections unless they first naturalize - which costs $700, requires they pass a history exam, and is a process that can take a year or more.  This is like a poll tax and literacy test all rolled into one.


"Non-citizen nationals" are also denied many job opportunities, including being barred from serving as officers in the U.S. military.  Many states require citizenship to serve as police officers, firefighters, and other good-paying state jobs.  Some American Samoan Veterans are even denied the right to bear arms as a civilian.


Many state laws actually treat "non-citizen nationals" worse off than they treat foreign nationals with legal permanent residence, providing more rights and opportunities to these foreign nationals than American Samoans enjoy as U.S. nationals. 


Federal law and the laws of each state treat non-citizen nationals different under different circumstances.  For more information on the consequences of this confusing patchwork of laws, read this amicus brief filed by the Hon. David Cohen, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior for Insular Affairs, in support of recognizing people born in American Samoa as U.S. citizens.

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