The Supreme Court Should Drop an Important Case — So Says Biden

The Supreme Court Should Drop an Important Case - So Says Biden

Biden Wants Supreme Court To DROP This Landmark Case

( – In the early 20th Century, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decided multiple cases using reasoning most people now call racist and offensive. These decisions, called the Insular Cases, have set the precedent that people born in US territories do not automatically receive US citizenship. In recent decades, though, Congress has passed various laws granting many US territory residents citizenship at birth. However, the Samoan Islands never got such a designation.

Now, a case is heading to SCOTUS that could upend these decades-old rulings, but the Biden Administration is hoping the high court does not hear it.

Unpacking Fitisemanu v. US

The Samoan Islands became a US territory in 1900 but kept a separate government and laws to preserve its heritage. However, this meant people born there pay some US taxes but are not US citizens. This led multiple people to seek citizenship under the 14th Amendment, which states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

In Fitisemanu v. US, three Samoan-born Utah residents are suing for citizenship with that reasoning. However, their desire for citizenship conflicts with that of some of the territory’s leaders, who prefer their lack of citizenship because it allows them to preserve their way of life. Fitisemanu won his case in the district court, but the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the original ruling, which is how he is able to ask the SCOTUS to hear it.

Biden Administration Files Brief Against the Case

On Monday, August 29, US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar filed a brief with the nation’s highest court noting the case in question would not be a good one to overturn the Insular Cases. She emphasized the courts should not decide whether or not citizenship should be granted to these people. Instead, she believes Congress should address it. Prelogar also pushed aside the fact a ruling could overturn the controversial Insular Cases, saying those have already been “discredited” and are “indefensible.”

American Samoa Congresswoman Aumua Amata (R) also released a statement praising the Biden administration’s and the Solicitor General’s stance, saying such a decision shows the executive branch’s support “of American Samoa’s obvious right of self-determination.”

Many Groups Want SCOTUS To Hear the Case

Numerous groups want the SCOTUS to take the case to overturn the Insular rulings, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense & Educational Fund (NAACP LDF). They argue not addressing this question over citizenship continues to affirm the decades-old rulings marking US nationals as second-class citizens.

On the one hand, there are American nationals asking for citizenship under the 14th Amendment, but on the other is the gray area of whether or not it’s the court’s job to make such a decision in the first place. The SCOTUS will likely decide whether or not to hear this case in the next few months.

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