PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Adobo Chronicles) – The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has just ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship does not apply to island territories including American Samoa.
Agreeing with the Obama administration’s lawyers, the DC Circuit relied on and even expanded the scope of a set of racially-charged, Colonial-era cases that refer to “savages” and “alien races” to reach their decision.
The cited Insular Cases date back to the early 20th century when the US had just won the Spanish-American War and acquired Puerto Rico and the far-flung new territories of Guam and the Philippines. The US acquired American Samoa in two parts in 1900 and 1904 as part of its continued expansion. But American political leaders had a problem: They wanted the United States to become a colonial power, but they didn’t want to extend constitutional protections to the overwhelmingly nonwhite residents of the new territories. (As one of the friend-of-the-court brief in the current case notes, the Democratic Party’s official platform in 1900 argued that “the Filipinos cannot be citizens without endangering our civilization.”)
American Samoa is one of U.S. territories that also include Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Northern Marianas.
Reacting to the court decision, the American Samoa Fono, the territory’s legislature, unanimously passed an emergency bill requiring all visiting U.S. citizens to apply for an entry visa. The bill was immediately signed by Governor Lolo Letalu Matalasi Moliga.
“If the U.S. doesn’t want us to be citizens, then we don’t want U.S. citizens to freely come and go on our beautiful islands,” Moliga said.
Hollywood actor Dwayne Johnson, star of the new blockbuster movie ‘San Andreas,’ was scheduled to visit American Samoa over the weekend for some R & R, but had to cancel travel plans. Johnson, a U.S. citizen, is part Samoan. He said he is not upset about the new visa requirement. In fact, he is supportive of it, saying the issue “is not just about fairness or birthright citizenship; it is about U.S. colonial mentality that has no place in our modern society.”
You go, Rock!