Conversion would be optional--Amata Proposes Bill to Ease Path to Citizenship
News Release from office of Rep Aumua Amata, (R-AS), March 31, 2021
Washington, D.C. – Wednesday, Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata has introduced HR 1941 in the 117th Congress that would enable any U.S. National who wishes to do so to convert to U.S. citizenship through a simplified procedure with the office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The House bill, H.R. 1941, is co-sponsored by the members of the House from the four other U.S. island territories: Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I greatly appreciate the support of my colleagues,” said Amata, who wrote each of them recently to ask them to underscore the importance of self-determination in any federal action that involves political status or political relationship with the U.S. In her letters, she said “Please know that I stand with you shoulder to shoulder on any change you wish to make with regard to your territory’s relationship with the U.S., but I do ask that it not be applied across the board to all territories.”
Speaking of the five territories, Amata noted that the U.S. exercises sovereignty over all of them and that the inhabitants of each who owe permanent allegiance to the United States all are Americans. “We all carry U.S. passports, we all can move freely about the U.S. without restriction, our school systems are modeled after those in the states, we can reside anywhere we choose in the U.S., and we all enjoy self-government based on the U.S. model of separation of powers among the three branches.
“At the same time, none of us has voting representation in Congress and are unable to vote for president because the U.S. Constitution does not provide for territorial membership in the Electoral College,” she continued. “However, while we have much in common, there are some substantial, fundamental differences that set us apart from our four sister territories.
“Unlike the other four, the U.S. did not acquire sovereignty over American Samoa as a result of military conquest or sale by a European or Asian metropolitan country. Unlike the others, we control our own borders and customs service and we are not part of the federal judicial system. While we all are Americans, most American Samoans are U.S. Nationals, an option not available to residents of any other state or territory. As our Governor, Lemanu P.S. Mauga, said in recent letters to his gubernatorial colleagues in the territories: “I am writing you today to advise you that the majority of our people prefer to maintain our status as Nationals and ask that you not support any efforts to impose citizenship on us by court fiat.”
American Samoa leaders believe that any change in political status, including revision of citizenship, should come about as an Act of Congress as provided in Article IV, section 3, clause ii of the U.S. Constitution in consultation with the people, not by a directive of the court, which would set a dangerous precedent. It is only through the political processes that the people of American Samoa can have a role in deliberating and deciding important issues relating to their status, on the timeframe they choose, in accordance with what matters most to them.
If enacted by Congress and approved by President Biden, U.S. Nationals at their option would be able to convert to Citizenship and, if living in the states or District of Columbia, be able to vote in presidential elections and hold certain federal jobs that require citizenship to obtain security clearances.
[Note to editors: Copies of Congresswoman Radewagen’s and Governor Lemanu’s letters are attached. Similar letters were sent to the House members and governors of all the other territories. A copy of the congresswoman’s bill also is attached.]