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UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal

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Born to Run: Can an American Samoan Become President?


American Samoa holds the unique distinction of being the only American jurisdiction whose residents have been declared by Congress to be U.S. "nationals" at birth, and not U.S. "citizens." This article examines the question of whether an American born on U.S. soil as a "national" can become president within the meaning of the "natural born citizen" clause of Article II, Section I of the United States Constitution, or whether Congress can, by statute, deprive an American Samoan of presidential eligibility. The article explores the uphill battle an American Samoan candidate will face in light of Congress' broad Article IV power over U.S. territories and case law surrounding the Fourteenth Amendment's citizenship clause, and details legal avenues that may prove successful for presidential eligibility. The article argues that even if an American Samoan were technically ineligible under Article II, jurisdictional doctrines of political question and standing to challenge presidential elections, accompanied by possible Congressional reluctance to nullify an election, may prevent litigation from arising in the first place, and allow the ineligible candidate to prevail in obtaining the presidency.

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