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Covington Files Amicus Brief in Support of Birthright Citizenship for American Samoans


WASHINGTON, DC, May 19, 2014 — Covington & Burling has filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in support of U.S. citizenship rights for residents of American Samoa. Filed on behalf of a group of congresswomen, former territorial governors and other prominent officials, Covington’s amicus curiae brief supports plaintiffs in a case challenging the United States’ citizenship laws, which recognize those born in American Samoa as “non-citizen nationals” but not U.S. citizens.

American Samoa, a U.S. territory located in the South Pacific Ocean, is the only U.S. territory where residents are not U.S. citizens at birth. Plaintiffs in the case, including three U.S. military veterans born in American Samoa, assert that birthright citizenship is guaranteed under the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“United States citizenship is guaranteed to all persons born on U.S. soil, both in the States and in the Territories,” Covington argued in its amicus brief, adding that “citizenship by birth is a fundamental right that, as such, applies in all the Territories.”

Covington filed the brief on behalf of Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (Guam), Congresswoman Donna Christensen (U.S. Virgin Islands); former Governors Pedro Rosselló (Puerto Rico), Carl Gutierrez (Guam), and Charles W. Turnbull (U.S. Virgin Islands); and former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta.

The Covington pro bono team includes Eugene Gulland, Jim Burke, William Mensch Evans, and Stephen Kiehl. The case is Tuaua, et al., v. the United States of America, et al.

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