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By Ulysses Torres Sabuco

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 2) – Two "stateless" individuals were declared American citizens by the United States District Court for the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas in a declaratory judgment issued last month enforcing the September 28-ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court affirming their citizenship.

However, the ruling of federal judge Alex R. Munson granting citizenship to Jacinto A. Sabangan, Jr. and Esther Hae Jin Sohn does not include the estimated 300 other so-called stateless individuals.

"The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit having issued its judgment and mandated on Sept. 28, 2004, and no stay having been sought, it is ordered that a declaratory judgment be and hereby is entered in favor of plaintiffs Jacinto A. Sabangan Jr. and Esther Hae Jin Sohn that they are citizens of the United State and the United States Department of State is directed to issue United States passports to them," Munson said in his Nov. 9 ruling obtained by Variety yesterday.

The two are among the 27 stateless persons who filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government claiming American citizenship.

Stateless individuals are children born to foreign parents in the CNMI between Jan. 9, 1978 and Nov. 3, 1986.

Lawyer Reynaldo Yana, representing the stateless individuals, clarified yesterday that Sabangan and Sohn are stateless individuals that have "exhausted all administrative remedies," including applying for U.S. passports, but were denied by the U.S. government.

Munson’s ruling, however, is a "victory" for the stateless kids who for years have been denied recognition of their citizenship, Yana added.

The CNMI government, through Assistant Attorney General James Livingstone, who represented the administration in the stateless issue, recognized the federal court’s ruling.

"It makes two of the kids U.S. citizens and now they receive U.S. passports," Livingstone told Variety.

But he added, "The U.S. can still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court the Ninth Circuit judgment, but until the appeal is done, judge Munson has to enforce the order of the Ninth Circuit."

Meanwhile, Yana said the U.S. passport office put on hold the applications for U.S. passports of the estimated 300 other stateless persons.

This is pending the U.S. State department’s Dec. 16 deadline to appeal the Ninth Circuit Court ruling affirming the citizenship of the so-called stateless.

On Sept. 27, the appellate court issued a single-line order denying the petition of the State Department for appeal rehearing filed in August by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

"The two are the only ones who completed the administrative process, meaning that they applied for passports and were denied," Yana told Variety yesterday. "That have exhausted all administrative remedies."

"However, their victory means a victory for the rest. The issue was a question of their citizenship... and that was answered by the Court of Appeals," Yana added.

December 2, 2004

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