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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 25) - A child born here but his or her parents are not from here and ancestors have no ties to American Samoa will not be considered an American Samoan, or a U.S. national, if a Senate measure introduced yesterday passes.

The measure is sponsored by Senator Tuaolo M. Fruean and has far reaching consequences in local politics, society and economics. The Senate Judicial Committee headed by Tuaolo next week will review it.

The proposed bill says that an American Samoan " shall not include children born in American Samoa to aliens who are in the Territory legally or illegally, or permanent residents, unless they are of American Samoan ancestry."

According to the current law, American Samoan ancestry means "lineal descendants of the inhabitants of Tutuila and Swains Islands whose permanent place of residence was American Samoa on April 17, 1900, and the inhabitants of Manu'a Islands whose permanent place of residence was American Samoa on July 16, 1904."

[PIR editor’s note: Swains Island is located north of the large island of Tutuila where the capital city of Pago Pago is situated; the islands of Ofu, Olosega, and Ta’u comprise the Manu’a Islands, which are located west of Tutuila.]

It defines an American Samoan as someone born 1) of American Samoan ancestry in American Samoa or in the United Sates; 2) or outside of American Samoa but one of whose parents was born here of Samoan ancestry and who has registered with the Immigration Board within three years of his 18th birthday, or the enactment of this section, whichever is later.

Further, the current law says that a U.S. national is "either a citizen of the United States, or a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States."

The proposed measure will change the current law by specifically redefining an American Samoan as someone of 'American Samoan ancestry' and affects who is to be considered a U.S. national by adding that a U.S. national "is defined as an 'American Samoan' is this section."

In the preamble of the proposed bill, it points out that the U.S. Congress has extended to American Samoa the authority to create and govern its own immigration matters.

The purpose of such authority, said the bill, "was the recognition of the rights of the people of American Samoa to determine its own political future, including the ability to restrict the entry of non-American Samoans."

Additionally, "Congress also recognized that American Samoans would know how best to protect its centuries-old culture, its limited land, and its traditional family organizations.

Moreover, "there is also the continued concern of depleting the limited natural resources and the over-burdening of economic, social, and educational opportunities for American Samoans by non-American Samoans.

According to the measure, "the current immigration laws have inadvertently opened up our borders to foreign families "and give birth to non American Samoan children who are extended the status of U.S. National."

"The extension of such a status gives aliens who have no ties to the Territory a sense of permanency and threatens the very things our immigration laws were created to protect," it says.

In order to protect local borders "as well as the long standing policy of preventing the influx of non-American Samoans who may threaten our way of life, legislation should be created to prevent the extension of U.S. National status to the children of aliens who are not residing in American Samoa permanently, legally or those who are not of American Samoan ancestry."

"Due to the continuous need to protect the Territory's limited resources as well as to better protect our customs and culture," the measure is effective immediately upon passage by the Fono and the governor's approval.

January 26, 2006

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