Soon, the Supreme Court will decide whether to take a case of astounding constitutional importance. Its outcome could alter the rules governing citizenship, equal protection, and the power of the federal government. And it centers around a tiny chain of islands that you probably cannot find on a map. The question: Can Congress decide that an entire group of Americans—born in America, raised in America, allegiant to America—does not deserve United States citizenship? American Samoans, the group in question, have been Americans since 1900, when the United States acquired their territory in the midst of an imperialist expansion. Since then, residents of America’s other territories have either achieved independence or gained U.S. citizenship. But in 2016, American Samoans stand alone: Unlike people born in, say, Puerto Rico or Guam, they are not granted citizenship at birth. Instead, they are considered “noncitizen nationals,” a legally dubious term that effectively renders them stateless, a mark of second-class status imprinted on their (American) passports.
Is all of this constitutional? No, it is not. And that’s why a group of American Samoans are asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the status quo and extend citizenship to all those born in the territory. Their lawsuit arrives at a peculiar cultural moment, in the midst of an election that has thrown the definition of birthright citizenship into political (if not legal) controversy, with Republicans such as Donald Trump challenging its constitutional legitimacy. If the justices take the case, they’ll have the opportunity to definitely settle the matter of U.S. citizenship. If they do not, they’ll allow this unfortunate debate to rage on—and permit American Samoans to suffer citizenship discrimination indefinitely.
The story of birthright citizenship in the United States is, in large part, the story of the Civil War. In Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court decision that arguably rendered a war inevitable, the justices found that black people, even those born in the U.S., were not citizens. Rather, the court held, black people were “a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race … and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.”
Full Article: The Supreme Court needs to settle birthright citizenship..