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Those born in U.S. territories not granted citizenship

South Carolina immigrants who were born in U.S. territories may be interested to hear that a suit against the government has failed its bid to ease the path to citizenship. In a federal appeals court ruling handed down on June 5, a panel of three judges decided that petitioners from American Samoa, a U.S.-controlled territory since 1900, were not granted citizenship under existing 14th Amendment provisions.

One of the plaintiffs named in the suit, in which a group of American Samoans sought to gain automatic citizenship for their people, noted that not being a citizen prevented him from holding certain career positions in law enforcement. News sources say many American Samoans feel the existing paths to citizenship are rife with roadblocks and hurdles. In order to even apply for naturalization, American Samoan natives have to temporarily give up their homes in the territory in favor of residing in recognized U.S. states for three months or more.

The deciding judicial panel said that the court did not want to impose citizenship on American Samoans, noting that many elected representatives of the territory rejected the idea of their population of approximately 56,000 becoming citizens by default. In the past, American Samoan government officials said that granting natives automatic citizenship might work against certain established institutions involving land ownership and cultural practices.

Although attaining citizenship is a major goal for many individuals, existing rules could prevent them from gaining it easily. People's quests to obtain green cards, immigrant visas and other vital documentation might even be blocked by factors beyond their control, such as current political relations between their home country and the U.S. Individuals who still wish to pursue naturalization may find it helpful to learn about their particular circumstances and what they can do to make the journey more successful.

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