Judge Clark Waddoups for the US District Court in Utah ruled on Thursday in favor of three American Samoan plaintiffs and a nonprofit corporation who alleged that their classification as nationals instead of citizens violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
Waddoups cited precedent going back as far as 1608 as well as another case, Wong Kim Ark, by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1898 where the court discussed the importance of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment granting citizenship at the time of birth. It was based on this precedent that Waddoups granted summary judgments to the plaintiffs, who had brought suit against the United States in March 2018 over the classification:
“This Court must apply binding precedent. As explained in length above, Wong Kim Ark’s holding is binding on this court. This court has no choice but to deny Intervenors’ Motion.”
The ruling was slow to come for American Samoans. American Samoa was declared a territory in 1900, and other occupants of U.S. territories have long been considered citizens, including those born in Guam, Puerto Rico, Panama, and the Virgin Islands. Furthermore, the District Court in D.C. ruled in 2015 that American Samoans should not be considered citizens, a ruling which the Utah court did not have to follow because it is in a different jurisdiction.