Questions In American Samoa Arise About Nationality Of Foreign Nationals In Territory

Attorney General says whether all persons born in Territory are U.S. Nationals needs more research 

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Feb. 14, 2017) – Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale says more research is needed on the issue of a child born in American Samoa to a foreigner residing in the territory, taking the nationality of the child’s parents, and not that of a US national.

Federal law considers persons born in American Samoa as US Nationals and with the influx of foreigners to the territory, especially Asians, lawmakers over the last two decades have raised the issue with government officials.

They have argued that children born here to parents from foreign countries, would in the future control American Samoa’s land, take seats in the Fono, and even the governorship post, as they would be US nationals.

And during a recent Senate committee hearing, senators shared with the Attorney General that some countries have laws in place where a child born to a foreign parent is considered a citizen of the parents’ country and not the country in which the child was born.

Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai brought up the issue with the AG, to which Talauega said he has thought about the same issue because it can also prevent the influx of foreigners to American Samoa.

However, he said this issue needs thorough research and noted that the Fono now has one of the best legal counsels - referring to former deputy attorney general Mitzie Jessop-Ta’ase, who is assigned to the Senate, who can conduct the research work for the Fono.

Talauega said Jessop-Ta’ase is a hard working legal counsel and very familiar with these types of issues and a bill to make such changes could start from the Senate. However, the 49-year-old AG reminded senators that the only difficulty in this matter is that it involves federal law.

Senators pointed to the many Asians, especially Chinese, in the territory operating businesses, with Sen. Fai’ivae A. Godinet saying that Samoans are sweeping the floor in these businesses while Asians are giving orders and operating the businesses.

Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean said he witnessed on a KVZK-TV program that there are so many Chinese on island, during a celebration of the Chinese New Year in the territory. He asked as to why there are so many Chinese and other Asians here.

Talauega responded that the influx of foreigners to the territory didn’t happen yesterday or in the first four years of the Lolo Administration. He said the problem goes back years and it’s American Samoans who brought Asians here to set up stores and other businesses.

He said the law is clear on the number of Chinese allowed into the territory per quota, which is 5 a year, but over the years, the law was not followed and it will take time to address this issue.

With the influx of Chinese and other Asians to the territory, and their children born in the territory, Tuaolo says that he is concerned with the future of American Samoa and that the Senate would end up having a “Senator Ho or a Senator Hin” occupying senatorial seats reserved for local Samoan traditional leaders.

“Fix this problem,” said Tuaolo, to which Talauega called on all America Samoans to work together in order to address this long-standing issue.

And this issue of influx of Asians to the territory and operating local businesses is expected to come up again in the Fono during the next four-years of the Lolo Administration.

The Samoa News
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