24 Dec 2015

American Samoa's status hangover of 'Jim Crow' laws - lawyer

5:46 pm on 24 December 2015

A lawyer representing a group of five American Samoans hoping to take their case for United States citizenship to the Supreme Court says it's time for the territory to be treated fairly.

Currently, American Samoans are considered US residents, not citizens, which denies the territory and its people several constitutional rights and provisions.

no caption

Photo: 123RF

One of the lawyers taking the case, Charles Alailima, says the law dates back over a century to the controversial 'Jim Crow' laws, which came to personify racial oppression and segregation.

Mr Alailima says the current status of American Samoa is a sad hangover from a dark period in America's past and needs to be changed.

"Now 115 years have passed; the Philippines and Cuba have gotten their independence, citizenship has been granted to all the other territories that remain with the United States, but they have not done it for American Samoa. In this particular case we're saying it's time to relegate it to the past, that was an ugly past, let's start fresh."

Charles Alailima says the group hopes to present its case to the Supreme Court in February, and if accepted, a decision should be made by the end of June.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs