American Samoans Demand U.S. Citizenship

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Although automatic citizenship has been given to other U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and Guam, American Samoa is the only territory not granted U.S. citizenship by birthright. This can boil down to real consequences for American Samoans living in the States.


Plaintiff Taffy-lei Maene lost her job after working for the State of Washington’s Department of Licensing for a year, because she wasn't recognized as a citizen. Fanuatanu Mamea was seriously injured fighting in the Vietnam War, but is denied many benefits available to citizens. And of course, without citizenship, American Samoans cannot vote in federal elections.

Others say they don't want automatic citizenship imposed on them, which could threaten some communal land ownership rules unique to American Samoa. Read more on this issue here and here.

Is it fair for the U.S. government to consider American Samoans nationals, but not citizens?