Lene Tuaua is a proud American.


Because Mr. Tuaua was born in American Samoa, however, the federal government does not recognize him as a U.S. citizen.  Instead, he is labeled with the subordinate and inferior status of “non-citizen national."

American Samoa has been a part of the United States for 116 years.  It has among the highest rates of military service of any jurisdiction in America, yet Americans born there are required to naturalize in order to be recognized as citizens.

Mr. Tuaua, along with four others born in American Samoa and the Samoan Federation of America, is defending his family’s right to citizenship in federal court. 

The argument in Tuaua v. United States is simple: the Citizenship Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that “All persons born . . . in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”  Federal laws and policies that deny citizenship to people born in American Samoa violate this Clause and are unconstitutional. 

Contrary to the text and history of the Citizenship Clause, the federal government argued that Congress has the power to exclude Americans born in U.S. territories from the Constitution’s guarantee of citizenship based on the controversial Insular Cases doctrine.  But as the Supreme Court recently wrote in Boumediene v. Bush, “[t]he Constitution grants Congress and the President the power to acquire, dispose of, and govern territory, not the power to decide when and where its terms apply.”

Following an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the court denied review, leaving unresolved the question of whether Congress may continue to deny recognition of citizenship to people born in American Samoa.


History of the Case

U.S. Supreme Court

  • June 13, 2016, Petition for Writ of Certiorari Denied

In Support of Supreme Court Review

In Opposition to Supreme Court Review

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Press Coverage