Supreme Court Denies Review in Fitisemanu v. United States

Statements following the Supreme Court’s denial of review in Fitisemanu v. United States

John Fitisemanu, Lead Plaintiff, Fitisemanu v. United States

“It’s a punch in the gut for the Justices to leave in place a ruling that says I am not equal to other Americans simply because I was born in a U.S. territory. I was born on U.S. soil, have a U.S. passport, and pay my taxes like everyone else. But because of a discriminatory federal law, I am not recognized as a U.S. citizen. As a result, I can’t even vote in local elections, much less for President. This is un-American and cannot be squared with America’s democratic and constitutional principles,” said John Fitisemanu, lead plaintiff in Fitisemanu v. United States, who now lives in Utah. 

“I had hoped to hear today that I would have my day before the U.S. Supreme Court. But instead the Justices continue to avoid answering basic questions about what rights people from U.S. territories can expect. People from the territories deserve better from this Court and better from this nation.”

Neil Weare, President of Equally American, Co-Counsel in Fitisemanu v. United States

“The Supreme Court’s refusal to reconsider the Insular Cases today continues to reflect that ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ does not mean the same thing for the 3.6 million residents of U.S. territories as it does for everyone else,” said Neil Weare, President and Founder of Equally American, which advocates for equality and civil rights in U.S. territories. “The Supreme Court in recent years has not hesitated to rule in ways that harm residents of U.S. territories. But when asked to stand up for the rights of people in the territories - even the basic right to citizenship - the Justices are silent.”

“Today’s inaction by the Justices highlights the fact that America has a colonies problem. On top of that, our country stubbornly refuses to recognize that this problem even exists, much less do anything about it. The population of the five U.S. territories is equal to that of the five smallest states, yet residents of the territories - 98% of whom are people of color – cannot vote for President, have no voting representation in Congress, and are systematically denied their right to self-determination.”

“While the Supreme Court’s inaction today is a set-back to be sure, the fight to make sure there are no second-class citizens or colonies in the United States will continue.” 

American Samoan Attorney Charles V. Ala'ilima, Co-Counsel in Fitisemanu v. United States

“The Supreme Court has yet again left unresolved the question whether people born in American Samoa are U.S. citizens, which is a disservice both to those who want recognition of a right to citizenship and those who oppose it. I continue to stand in agreement with what our traditional leaders knew to be true: that when our people transferred sovereignty to the United States they had a right to be recognized as full and equal citizens," said Charles V. Ala'ilima, a prominent American Samoan attorney who is co-counsel in Fitisemanu v. United States.

"The Supreme Court’s inaction also leaves unresolved whether the Insular Cases remain good law. This creates uncertainty around whether and how the Constitution applies in U.S. territories. I personally believe the U.S. constitution is broad enough to allow our customs and practices to continue. It does no one any favors for the Supreme Court to keep residents of the territories guessing on what their rights are and what is permissible under the U.S. flag."

The plaintiffs in Fitisemanu v. United States are also represented by attorneys at Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher LLP.

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published this page in Equally American Blog 2022-10-17 11:19:30 -0400