The Supreme Court declined to hear a case Monday that would have cleared the way for American Samoans to get full citizenship in the U.S., as opposed to being only U.S. nationals, as they now are. 

The case involves three American Samoans living in Utah, who say they are being prevented from voting and exercising other rights of citizens because of their status.

Justices rejected the case without giving a reason. The rejection allows lower court reasoning from the 14th Amendment that residents of U.S. territories are not automatically entitled to citizenship to stand.

The 14th Amendment says that “all persons born…in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”

One little word

Constitutional experts have argued that if the language read “or subject to . . .” instead of “and,” the American Samoans would have a better chance of getting their petition granted.

The Biden administration and the American Samoan government both asked the Supreme Court not to take the case earlier this year.

The Supreme Court has ruled against similar cases involving citizenship for territory residents since 1901, but their reasoning is rather suspect according to today’s standards.

The court previously said that the residents of the territories were uncivilized and did not assimilate into American culture. The Biden administration called these rulings “indefensible and discredited” but said that the Constitution’s wording would likely lead to the same result so taking the case wasn’t worth it.

American Samoa said its residents were divided on citizenship and that it didn’t want a Supreme Court case to do further damage in that regard.

The only one

Congress previously decided whether each of the five American territories could have birthright citizenship, and American Samoa is the only one that they said could not.

Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands all qualify for birthright citizenship, which is a big part of the reason why some of those residents want to be citizens as well.

Recently, President Joe Biden said that the Supreme Court is now “more of an advocacy group” since the Roe V. Wade decision.