In July 2012, Leneuoti Tuaua and four other plaintiffs filed suit in the D.C. District Court against the U.S. government and three State Department officials, claiming that American Samoans should be entitled to U.S. citizenship rather than their current “U.S. national” status. The lawsuit was dismissed in June 2013, but the plaintiffs appealed to the D.C. Circuit in February.
A number of legal scholars have filed amici briefs for the appellants, including Michael Ramsey of the the Tenth Amendment Center. More recently, the Department of Justice filed its own amicus brief attempting to rebut the appellants’ claims. Marianas Variety reports:
On Tuesday, the Obama administration on filed a brief before the District of Columbia Circuit Court arguing that Americans born in U.S. territories have no constitutional right to citizenship. Relying on a series of controversial Supreme Court decisions known as the Insular Cases that have been compared to Plessy v. Ferguson, the Obama administration defended a federal statute that expressly creates two classes of American nationals: those who enjoy the protections of U.S. citizenship and those who do not.
One of the more obscure consequences of this two-class system is a corner-case interaction between the Immigration & Nationality Act and the Internal Revenue Code: U.S. non-citizen nationals abroad are not “U.S. Persons” for tax purposes under 26 USC § 7701(a)(30).
This has no effect on American Samoans at home, since they — like every else — pay taxes to their local government for the services they actually use. It does make things simpler for American Samoans who move to Apia or Auckland or Australia or beyond. Due to the U.S.’ strange system of non-resident taxation — shared with only one other country on the planet, Eritrea — U.S. citizens (including Puerto Ricans and U.S. Virgin Islanders) and green card holders who live in other countries must spend thousands of dollars on professional assistance checking in with the IRS every year to prove the obvious fact that they’re already paying taxes to the country where they live and owe no U.S. tax. However, non-citizen nationals abroad are exempt from the IRS’ requirements.
But for the far more numerous American Samoans living in the fifty states, who pay the same taxes as their neighbours, this exemption is useless — and nevertheless, they pay a high cost for it: they cannot enjoy the same voting rights as people from other U.S. territories, nor many other rights enjoyed by other Americans, such as sponsoring a foreign spouse for a non-quota green card. Under Washington’s bizarre ideology, the price for freedom of emigration is your right to vote and your right to family life.