Tuaua v. United States, No. 13-5272 (D.C. Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Section 308(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, 8 U.S.C. § 1408(1), designates persons born in American Samoa as non-citizen nationals. Plaintiffs, individuals born in the United States territory of American Samoa, challenged section 308(1), as well as State Department policies and practices implementing the statute on Citizenship Clause grounds and under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq. The district court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. On appeal, plaintiffs reassert their constitutional claim. The court concluded that, while the language of the Thirteenth Amendment may be broader than that found in the Citizenship Clause, this comparison yields no dispositive insight as to whether the Citizenship Clause’s use of the term “United States” includes American Samoa or similarly situated territories. Even assuming a background context grounded in principles of jus soli, the court is skeptical that the framers plainly intended to extend birthright citizenship to distinct, significantly self-governing political territories within the United States’s sphere of sovereignty - even where, as is the case with American Samoa, ultimate governance remains statutorily vested with the United States Government. The court held it anomalous to impose citizenship over the
objections of the American Samoan people themselves, as expressed through their democratically elected representatives. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.