Not Ted Cruz’s citizenship specifically. Or even really natural-born citizenship. But birthright citizenship, okay?
Specifically, Section 1 of the 14th Amendment says, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof; are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”
“Notwithstanding the Citizenship Clause’s unequivocal promise of birthright citizenship, Congress has singled out persons born in American Samoa—part of the United States since 1900—as ‘nationals, but not citizens, of the United States,’” their petition says, citing 8 U.S.C. §1408(1).
Notwithstanding the Citizenship Clause’s unequivocal promise of birthright citizenship (oh, sorry, channeling my inner Marco Rubio), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Congress didn’t run afoul of the Constitution when it declared American Samoans “non-citizen nationals” at birth.
The D.C. Circuit said, “We sympathize with Appellants’ individual plights, apparently more freighted with duty and sacrifice than benefits and privilege”—you know, unlike those greedy Wall St. types (oh, sorry, Bernie).
But “the Citizenship Clause is textually ambiguous as to whether ‘in the United States’ encompasses America’s unincorporated territories and we hold it ‘impractical and anomalous,’” to “impose citizenship by judicial fiat—where doing so requires us to override the democratic prerogatives of the American Samoan people themselves,” the D.C. Circuit added.
The court acknowledged that “American citizenship ‘is one of the most valuable rights in the world today.’” But it noted that “the American Samoan people have not formed a collective consensus in favor of United States citizenship.”
The court pointed to concerns that birthright citizenship “could result in greater scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, imperiling American Samoa’s traditional, racially-based land alienation rules.”
“Traditionally aiga (extended families) ‘communally own virtually all Samoan land, [and] the matais [chiefs] have authority over which family members work what family land and where the nuclear families within the extended family will live,’” the court explained.
It would be “anomalous to impose citizenship over the objections of the American Samoan people themselves,” the court said! (Oh, sorry, Jeb!)
Will the super-legislature … wait, I mean, Supreme Court (I guess there’s some Ted Cruz in there too) step into this controversy and make America(n Samoa) great again (ok, I don’t need a link for this one, right)? Stay tuned.
(Apparently I don’t have an inner Hillary Clinton. And, I mean, I wasn’t a federal prosecutor, so clearly no Chris Christie in there either.)
Follow this and other Supreme Court petitions by taking a free trial to United States Law Week.
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