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Faleomavaega says the bill gives American Samoans the option

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 10, 2008) - Gov. Togiola Tulafono says federal legislation sponsored by Congressman Eni Faleomavaega will force U.S. citizenship on U.S. Nationals and he opposes such a measure.

Speaking on his weekend radio program, the governor also called for public input on this bill so their opinions could be forwarded to Washington before Congress decides on the bill.

[PIR editor’s note: Noncitizen U.S. nationals may reside and work in the United States without restrictions, and may apply for citizenship under the same rules as other resident aliens. U.S. nationals who are not citizens cannot vote or hold elected office at the federal level. Depending on local laws and ordinances, they may or may not be able to do so at the State or Local level.]

Togiola said he wants public opinion on this bill because once it's enacted into law that means U.S. citizenship is being forced on U.S. nationals living in American Samoa.

Faleomavaega said last week that measure (H.R. 6191) would "waive certain naturalization requirements for U.S. nationals living in American Samoa who 'wish' to become U.S. citizens."

H.R. 6191 is: "To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to waive certain requirements for naturalization for American Samoan United States nationals to become United States citizens," according to a copy of the bill obtained last week by Samoa News.

Faleomavaega stressed last week that the bill "will give U.S. nationals living in American Samoa 'an option' to apply for U.S. citizenship directly from American Samoa."

One of the requirements the bill would waive, is the requirement that a U.S. national reside in one of the 50 states for three months before applying for citizenship; another waiver would be the test of English proficiency, and knowledge of U.S. history and government.

Faleomavaega said recently that the bill allows anyone who wants to become a U.S. citizen to apply directly from American Samoa instead of traveling to the U.S.

As a native of American Samoa, Togiola said he is totally opposed to this measure, adding that he sees no additional benefits for U.S. nationals to become U.S. citizens.

He said U.S. nationals are getting the same benefits as U.S. citizens, such as a U.S. passport to travel freely, along with other federal benefits.

The governor also pointed out that the Future Political Status Study Commission (FPSSC) already addressed this issue in its report based on input during public hearings.

FPSSC report released in early 2007 recommends that "American Samoa not seek U.S. citizenship for its people at this time."

Togiola said he has concerns over U.S. citizenship extending to American Samoa. For example, if there is a military draft, all those 18 and over and are U.S. citizens in the territory will be included in the draft. He says currently, this policy does not apply to American Samoans in the territory because of their U.S. national status.

The governor said there are also active American Samoans in the military that have opted to maintain their U.S. National status instead of becoming U.S. citizens. (It is an option for those in active duty to apply for citizenship.)

Perhaps the biggest concern to the governor is that citizenship will open up the floodgate to more foreigners entering the territory to have their children born here in order to get U.S. citizenship. He said this will greatly impact local customs and land issues.

He said this bill will mostly likely benefit foreigners coming here, not U.S. nationals. And if foreigners flock here for this benefit, then he will move to stop the flow of foreigners entering the territory.

The governor also said this bill will surely extend federal immigration laws to American Samoa, which currently controls its own immigration and border issues. Togiola said another concern is that this bill will pave the way for all provisions of the U.S. constitution and laws to apply to American Samoa.

Five callers to the radio program supported the governor's position while one caller suggested that the governor place the issue on a referendum for the public to decide.

Togiola said he does not agree with a referendum because if the majority approves it, that means the citizenship issue will be forced on those who oppose it. He did acknowledge that this is a democratic society.

He said his comments and opposition to the bill should not be construed as politically motivated because this is an election year. He urged both supporters and opponents of the bill to write to Congress about their views, or forward them to the governor's office, who will then relay the information to Washington.

The Samoa News:

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