The Only U.S. Territory Without U.S. Birthright Citizenship.

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U.S. Territory Without U.S. Birthright Citizenship

A news blog post that explains the status of American Samoa as the only U.S. Territory Without U.S. Birthright Citizenship, and the different perspectives and arguments of its people on this issue.

People born in American Samoa, which the United States has held for more than 120 years, are not automatically citizens of the United States. Instead, they are U.S. nationals, which grants them some but not all of the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship.

American Samoa is the only U.S. territory that does not confer birthright citizenship to its residents. This is because of a series of Supreme Court decisions known as the Insular Cases, which ruled that the Constitution does not fully apply to the territories acquired by the U.S. after the Spanish-American War of 1898.

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The Only U.S. Territory Without U.S. Birthright Citizenship. 3

As U.S. nationals, American Samoans can live and work anywhere in the U.S. without a visa, hold U.S. passports, and serve in the U.S. military. However, they cannot vote in federal elections, run for office, or hold certain jobs that require U.S. citizenship. They also have limited access to federal benefits and programs, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.

Why do some American Samoans want U.S. citizenship?

Some American Samoans have challenged their status as U.S. nationals, arguing that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that “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.”

They claim that they face discrimination and hardship because of their lack of U.S. citizenship and that they deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans. They also point out that other U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have been granted birthright citizenship by Congress or the courts.

In 2019, a federal district court in Utah ruled in favor of three American Samoans who sued the U.S. government for denying them U.S. citizenship. The court declared that “persons born in American Samoa are citizens of the United States by the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” However, the ruling was appealed by the U.S. government and the American Samoa government, and the case is still pending before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Why do some American Samoans oppose U.S. citizenship?

Not all American Samoans want U.S. citizenship. Some prefer to keep their status as U.S. nationals, fearing that becoming U.S. citizens would threaten their cultural identity and autonomy. They argue that U.S. citizenship would impose federal laws and regulations incompatible with their traditional way of life, known as fa’a Samoa, which is based on a communal and hierarchical system of family and village governance.

They also worry that U.S. citizenship would undermine their land tenure system, which restricts land ownership to those of Samoan ancestry. They contend that U.S. citizenship would open the door to outsiders who could buy and sell land, displacing the native population and eroding their connection to their ancestral homeland.

Moreover, some American Samoans view U.S. citizenship as a matter of choice, not a right. They believe that U.S. citizenship should be granted by Congress, not by the courts and that American Samoans should have the opportunity to vote on whether they want to become U.S. citizens or not.

What is the future of American Samoa’s status?

The question of American Samoa’s status is not only a legal issue but also a political and cultural one. It involves complex and sensitive issues of sovereignty, identity, and self-determination. It also reflects the broader challenges and opportunities that the U.S. faces in its relationship with its territories and their people.

As the only U.S. territory without U.S. birthright citizenship, American Samoa occupies a unique and precarious position in the American family. Whether it will remain as such, or change its status in the future, depends on the will and the voice of its people, as well as the actions and the responses of the U.S. government.


1. American Samoa – The New York Times 

2. The only US territory without US birthright citizenship 

3. U.S. top court rejects American Samoan birthright citizenship bid 

4. United States nationality law – Wikipedia 

5. American Samoa | Culture, History, & People | Britannica 

6. Culture of American Samoa – history, people, clothing, traditions … 

7. American Samoa — History and Culture – iExplore 

8. American Samoa – National Geographic Kids 

9. History & Culture – National Park of American Samoa (U.S. National Park … 

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