What is the relationship between citizenship and American Samoa’s future political status?

And should the issue of citizenship be put up for a vote?


The question of citizenship is straightforward: So long as American Samoa is part of the United States, do people born in American Samoa have an individual right under the U.S. Constitution to be recognized as citizens?  The Constitution’s Citizenship Clause provides a clear and definitive answer to this question, and one that is not subject to a vote:  “All persons born . . . in the United States, . . . are citizens of the United States.”  But answering the question of citizenship under the U.S. flag will not answer any questions about American Samoa’s future political status -- those are questions that only the people of American Samoa can answer.           


A court ruling that Congress cannot deny the birthright citizenship of people born in American Samoa will not change the fact that the future of American Samoa’s political status remains in the hands of the American Samoan people.  The islands of American Samoa have been a part of the United States since American Samoa’s traditional leaders transferred sovereignty through the Deeds of Cession more than a century ago.  Unless and until the American Samoan people decide to change their political status, the question of citizenship is determined by the U.S. Constitution.


Congressional testimony by American Samoan Attorney Charles V. Alai’ilima and Equally American's President Neil Weare that examines these issues further is available here.

Was this helpful?