Five people from American Samoa have filed a federal lawsuit arguing that they should be US citizens by virtue of being born in the US territory. The lawsuit filed this week in Washington challenges the constitutionality of federal laws that make those born in the Pacific archipelago US nationals but not citizens, like those born in other territories. In Puerto Rico, for example, territorial status grants residents US citizenship, although they pay no federal income taxes and cannot vote in presidential elections.
Those born in American Samoa, home to 56,000, are considered nationals, who also don't pay federal income taxes and can't vote for president. Nationals must follow the same procedures for naturalization as those who are permanent legal residents, which includes taking tests on English proficiency and American civics, even though English is widely spoken in American Samoa and public schools teach US history. Plaintiff Leneuoti Tuaua says he wanted to pursue a law enforcement career in California, but couldn't because of his status as a US national. (Read more American Samoa stories.)