Last term, judges at both ends of the court’s ideological spectrum — Neil M. Gorsuch on the right and Sonia Sotomayor on the left — criticized the rulings, which used racist language and imperialist sentiment to conclude that residents of certain territories Americans are not entitled to full constitutional protection, such as citizenship based on birthright.
“Island affairs have no basis in the Constitution and are instead based on racial stereotypes,” Gorsuch wrote last April in a concurring opinion. He added that “the time has come to recognize that island affairs rest on a rotten foundation. And I hope the day will come soon when the Court will strike them down outright.
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Gorsuch seemed to have in mind Fitisemanu, a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that upheld a federal law that held persons born in American Samoa to be U.S. nationals but not U.S. citizens. This is a challenge from three people who were born in the archipelago but now live in Utah.
The lawyers were disappointed that Prelogar asked the High Court not to take up the case. “It is shocking that the Biden-Harris administration and Solicitor General continue to breathe life into Island affairs, which were predicated on a vision of white supremacy that has no place in our society, let alone the briefs filed by the United States Department of Justice,” said Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American, which campaigns for equal rights in U.S. territories.
The group’s petition says people born in American Samoa are considered “second class by the US government”.
Those who move within the states, “despite being taxpayers contributing to their communities, cannot vote,” serve on juries or run for state and federal elections, the petition says.
Despite a high percentage of residents serving in the military, he continues, “Indeed, they are citizens of nowhere.”
Some of the approximately 50,000 inhabitants of the territory, however, seem to appreciate it that way.
Its political leaders and delegate to Congress have filed a brief stating that there is no consensus on citizenship and that any decision on the matter should not be imposed by the courts but negotiated through the political process.
“For three thousand years, on an archipelago seven thousand miles from this court, the American Samoan people preserved fa’a samoa – the traditional Samoan way of life, weaving countless traditional cultural, historical and religious practices into a dynamic pattern not found anywhere else in the world,” their amicus brief to the court stated. “The American Samoan people have kept fa’a samoa living in part by preserving their unique political status.
The string of islands in the South Pacific became a territory in 1900.
The Supreme Court rejected a request to review American Samoan citizenship several years ago. This time, the court is seeking the views of the Biden administration. The administration has come under pressure from some of its usual allies in the civil rights movement to urge the court to take up the case and drop the island cases.
As the three American Samoan challengers noted in their court petition, they are seeking to overturn rulings that began in 1901 with a judge saying there should be different rules for “extraterrestrial races, different from us.” , and expressed concern about the “savages”. become “citizens of the United States”.
But the government’s brief filed on Monday said the issue was how to interpret the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States.” and the state in which they reside. .”
There is no split among appellate courts that overseas territories are not “in the United States,” the Biden administration has said, and it is up to Congress to grant birthright citizenship, as it has done in Puerto Rico, Guam and elsewhere.
“The government in no way relies on the indefensible and discredited aspects of the reasoning and rhetoric of Island cases,” Prelogar wrote, so “this case would be an inappropriate vehicle to reexamine those cases.”
The court is expected to make a decision on whether to take up the case this fall.