Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Samoa in the News

American Samoa's flag
Note: there are no bald eagles to be found in any of the Samoan islands

"Should American Samoans be [US] citizens?"

That's what Danny Cevallos, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, asks in a recent article on CNN Opinion.

America Samoa has been a US territory since 1900 and American Samoans are disproportionately represented in the US military and as war casualties.

American Samoans as US Nationals cannot vote in federal elections, though they do have one non-voting delegate to the US House of Representatives, currently Eni Faleomavaega, who can lobby Congress in favor of American Samoa. (For a fascinating description of how this process works, read historian Davis Bitton's biography of Mormon Apostle George Q. Cannon who served as Utah Territory's delegate for four terms between 1872 and 1882.)

Like Cevallos, I don't know if American Samoans will ever be granted automatic citizenship. However—and I don't know if this is even on any American Samoans' minds—rather than granting them US citizenship, I'd like to see American Samoans politically reunited with their fellow Samoans to the west.

There may be some good political reasons why that wouldn't be a good idea, not least of which is China's growing involvement in (formerly Western) Samoa, but it makes good sociocultural sense.

Even that last point is debatable, of course, because the Samoan archipelago doesn't seem to ever have been a single polity governed by a single ruler. The paramount chiefs of ancient Samoa probably didn't have universally recognized sovereignty over all the people in all the Samoan islands. So to give Apia control over historically autonomous Manu Ľa, would be culturally problematic.

At the end of the day the Samoans themselves are best suited to solve this problem, yet, as Cevallos accurately points out, they don't have the power to carry out any decisions they make regarding their governance or citizenship.

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