The lawyer from Guam behind the suit claiming that American Samoans are U.S. citizens said he “plans to file a Federal lawsuit on behalf of Americans who are denied the right to vote for president simply because” they live in U.S. territories.
Neal Weare asserted that a team he has recruited has developed a “new equal protection argument that offers an opportunity to succeed in court where past efforts have failed.”
He said that the suit would be filed in “the coming months.”
The argument will need to be new. Lawsuits to enable residents of territories to vote for the president and vice president of the United States filed by a number of attorneys in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Weare’s home of Guam have failed.
And it took a Federal constitutional amendment to give the District of Columbia presidential votes. This is despite the fact that the nation’s capital is a full and permanent part of the United States, whereas the current territories are not.
The Constitution of the United States provides that electors representing the States and the District select the president and vice president of the country.
Weare’s American Samoa citizenship suit also contradicts numerous judicial decisions.
The suit claims that individuals born in the territory are citizens due to a provision of the U.S. Constitution, the 14th Amendment, and not U.S. nationals, as Federal law provides.
The U.S. Justice Department has strongly opposed Weare’s contention, and a Federal district court judge in Washington, DC has rejected his argument.
Weare is challenging the decision in a Federal Court of Appeals.
If Weare’s novel claim succeeds, individuals born in the other territories — including Puerto Rico — would certainly also be U.S. citizens by virtue of the U.S. Constitution.
This would validate an argument of former Puerto Rico Governor Rafael Hernandez Colon and other ‘commonwealthers.’
It would also extinguish the possibility of Puerto Rico becoming a nation as many other members of the territory’s “commonwealth” party and supporters of independence want. Puerto Rico and all four other territories would be permanent parts of the United States.
As none of the territories other than Puerto Rico have any chance of becoming States, the development would force the Federal government to devise a new status for the current territories. It would be the type of “commonwealth status” for which Hernandez Colon has long advocated and Federal officials have always said is impossible.
The status would almost certainly be a second-class ‘statehood.’ And it would probably prevent Puerto Rico from ever becoming a State on an equal basis with the existing 50 States.