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American Samoans and U.S. citizenship

Pennsylvania immigrants who came from American Samoa may be disappointed with a recent federal appeals court decision. The judge ruled that individuals from American Samoa are not guaranteed United States citizenship simply because of their birth in that territory.

The decision set forth when a person can be granted citizenship based on their location of birth. For example, individuals who were born in Puerto Rico and other territories have an automatic right to United States citizenship. The court held that the United States Constitution does not give individuals who were born in unincorporated political territories the birthright of citizenship to the United States. The judge who wrote the opinion also stated that the American Samoan people have objected to such impositions of citizenship before as expressed through their elected representatives. Such individuals have stated that inherent citizenship could potentially undermine the culture of the people. This factor was also taken into consideration in the decision.

The case ruled on by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had been filed by several American Samoans, including a resident of California who was not allowed to become a police officer because he is not a citizen of the United States. The current route toward citizenship for an American Samoan is to leave the territory and to establish a residence in the United States for at least three months, but many find that a financial and logistical burden.

Immigrants who desire to become U.S. citizens may choose to discuss their case with an attorney who has experience with these matters. Legal counsel might determine the paths that are available based upon a review of a client's particular set of circumstances.

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