D.C. Circuit Panel Holds American Samoans Not Entitled to American Birthright Citizenship

Here is the opinion in Leneuoti Tuaua v. United States.

An excerpt:

As even the dissent to Elk recognized, “it would be obviously inconsistent with the semi-independent character of such a tribe, and with the obedience they are expected to render to their tribal head, that they should be vested with the complete rights—or, on the other, subjected to the full responsibilities—of American citizens. It would not for a moment be contended that such was the effect of this amendment.” Id. at 119–20 (Harlan, J., dissenting). Even assuming a background context grounded in principles of jus soli, we are skeptical 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. See Downes, 182 U.S. at 305 (White, J., concurring) (doubting citizenship naturally and inevitably extends to an acquired territory regardless of context).

I would have thought (hoped) that the rule of Elk v. Wilkins had faded into meaninglessness, but here it is again.

Another excerpt:

At base Appellants ask that we forcibly impose a compact of citizenship—with its concomitant rights, obligations, and implications for cultural identity12—on a distinct and unincorporated territory of people, in the absence of evidence that a majority of the territory’s inhabitants endorse such a tie and where the territory’s democratically elected representatives actively oppose such a compact.

That footnote 12 in bold? Here:

See also, e.g., Robert B. Porter, The Demise of the Ongwehoweh and the Rise of the Native Americans: Redressing the Genocidal Act of Forcing American Citizenship Upon Indigenous Peoples, 15 HARV. BLACKLETTER L.J. 107, 169 (1999) (arguing that statutorily “[f]orcing American citizenship upon Indigenous [Native American] people [destructively] transformed [their] political identity”).