Constitutional Citizenship and the 14th Amendment

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Constitutional Citizenship

On July 10, 2012, the case of Tuaua v. United States was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. 

The lawsuit was filed by the Constitutional Accountability Center, a public interest law firm, the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP and local attorney Charles V. Ala’ilima, on behalf of Leneuoti Tuaua and other individuals born in American Samoa, as well as the Samoan Federation of America. The complaint seeks to have the court declare that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to the entire United States, including American Samoa. The result would be that anyone born in American Samoa would be a U.S. citizen. 

The question of the 14th Amendment’s application to American Samoa law has long been a piont of contention with the Territory. There has been a long-standing fear that introducing the 14th Amendment will lead to the eventual collapse of the land-tenure system and the fa’asamoa. This “constitutional citizenship” has always been denied to the territories. Guam and the Northern Marianas both enjoy “statutory citizenship” granted by Congress, but American Samoa remains the last area that only confers U.S. National status. Below are some documents relating to the case, including the 14th Amendment, an overview of the lawsuit, and some historical documents from the American Samoa Commission on Citizenship who studied this issue in 1930.


About the Case, Tuaua v. United States

CAC Press Release

14th Amendment (the first sentence of section 1 is the citizenship clause)


Court Documents

Complaint filed in Tuaua v. U.S.

U.S. Government’s Motion to Dismiss

Rep. Eni Faleomavaega’s Amicus Brief



1930 Insular Affairs Commission on Citizenship for American Samoa

Excerpts from the Commission’s report.

Commission Decision

Congressional Record