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American Samoans should be recognized as US citizens, federal judge decides


People born in the U.S. territory of American Samoa should be recognized as U.S. citizens, a federal judge in Utah ruled Thursday, in a hard-fought legal battle spanning decades.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups also ruled that American Samoans should be issued new passports reflecting his ruling. The disclaimer on their passports currently reads: “The bearer is a United States national and not a United States citizen.”

“This court is not imposing ‘citizenship by judicial fiat,'” Waddoups said in his decision. “The action is required by the mandate of the Fourteenth Amendment as construed and applied by Supreme Court precedent.”

American citizens are defined as people “born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

In this undated file image provided by nonprofit advocacy and legal group Equally American, John Fitisemanu, an American Samoan and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the United States seeking full U.S. citizenship. People born in the territory of American Samoa should be recognized as U.S. citizens, a federal judge in Utah decided Thursday in a case filed amid more than a century of legal limbo but whose eventual impact remains to be seen. (Katrina Keil Youd/Equally American via AP)

In this undated file image provided by nonprofit advocacy and legal group Equally American, John Fitisemanu, an American Samoan and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the United States seeking full U.S. citizenship. People born in the territory of American Samoa should be recognized as U.S. citizens, a federal judge in Utah decided Thursday in a case filed amid more than a century of legal limbo but whose eventual impact remains to be seen. (Katrina Keil Youd/Equally American via AP)

American Samoa became a U.S. territory in 1900, but those born there are only recognized as U.S. nationals, preventing them from being able to vote, run for public office or sponsor family members for immigration to the U.S.

Its status separates itself from other U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 2016, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that ruled the Constitution doesn’t confer citizenship to those born in American Samoa.

The lawsuit was brought last year by three people — John Fitisemanu, Pale Tuli and Rosavita Tuli — who were born on the cluster of islands southeast of Hawaii and currently reside in Utah. They claimed they faced restrictions from traveling abroad and were subject to fees that don’t apply to American citizens.

It was not clear if Thursday’s ruling applies outside of Utah. The Justice Department and State Department didn’t immediately return Fox News requests for comment.

“The takeaway from the ruling is that people born in American Samoa living in Utah are now U.S. citizens, and they have all the same rights as other Americans, including the right to vote,” said Neil Weare, president of Equally American and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “These individuals can now go and register to vote and participate in state, federal and local elections.”

Camel Rock near the village of Lauli'i in Pago Pago, American Samoa. A federal judge in Utah ruled Thursday that people born in American Samoa should be granted birthright citizenship.

Camel Rock near the village of Lauli’i in Pago Pago, American Samoa. A federal judge in Utah ruled Thursday that people born in American Samoa should be granted birthright citizenship.

American Samoans can apply for U.S. citizenship but have to pay the $725 application fee, in addition to any legal fees they incur to help them navigate the process.

Fitisemanu said his employment prospects have been diminished because of his rejection from jobs that specify U.S. citizenship as a requirement. In an interview with The Associated Press last year, he said he avoided political conversations because he couldn’t vote.

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After the ruling, Fitisemanu said he plans to register to vote. The American Samoan government claims automatic U.S. citizenship would undermine local traditions and practices.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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Trump paid more than $2M to charities to end Trump Foundation lawsuit, officials say


President Trump paid more than $2 million in a court-ordered settlement to end a lawsuit in which he was accused of misusing funds at his charitable foundation for political gain.

The payment and the remaining $1.8 million in the Trump Foundation’s bank account were distributed among eight charities, New York Attorney General (AG) Letitia James announced Tuesday.

Those charities are Army Emergency Relief, the Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals on Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of National Capital Area and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Each received $476,140, James said.

TRUMP FOUNDATION AGREES TO DISSOLVE AFTER LAWSUIT ALLEGED ‘ILLEGAL CONDUCT’

“Not only has the Trump Foundation shut down for its misconduct, but the president has been forced to pay $2 million for misusing charitable funds for his own political gain,” James said in a statement.

The lawsuit filed in June 2018 accused Trump and his three eldest children of using the Donald J. Trump Foundation to boost Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, settle legal disputes and for the purchase of sports paraphernalia, among other items.

NY AG PROMISES TO ‘USE EVERY AREA OF THE LAW’ TO PROBE TRUMP, FAMILY

Last month, a judge ordered Trump to pay $2 million in damages. James’ office had originally pushed for $2.8 million in restitution and a $5.6 million penalty. As part of the settlement, Trump admitted to misusing Trump Foundation funds and agreed to limitations and restrictions on future charitable work.

“Charities are not a means to an end, which is why these damages speak to the president’s abuse of power and represent a victory for not-for-profits that follow the law,” James said. “My office will continue to fight for accountability because no one is above the law — not a businessman, not a candidate for office, and not even the president of the United States.”

The settlement also called for mandatory training requirements for Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, which all three have completed, James said.

Attorneys for the Trump Foundation accused James of timing her announcement to deflect attention from her office’s Tuesday loss against Exxon Mobil in a climate change lawsuit.

“The AG’s office doesn’t want the media to focus on the massive trial they lost today,” attorneys Marc Mukasey and Alan Futerfas told Fox News in an emailed statement. “Our case was amicably resolved weeks ago. The judge commended both parties for the resolution. The legacy of the Trump Foundation — which gave away many millions to those most in need at virtually no cost — is secure.”

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The three-decades-old foundation reached a deal with the New York Attorney General to shut down in December 2018 amid the lawsuit. Authorities claimed Trump ran the foundation as an extension of his business empire and presidential campaign.

Last month, Trump said James had deliberately mischaracterized the settlement for political purposes. The foundation’s attorney argued that the lawsuit was politically motivated, which a judge rejected.



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