High court won't hear dispute over birthright citizenship

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a group of American Samoans who say the United States should grant full citizenship to people born in the U.S. territory.

The justices are letting stand a lower court ruling that said the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship does not extend to the islands that have been a part of the country since 1900.

Current law considers American Samoans to be "nationals," not full citizens like those born in Puerto Rico, Guam and other U.S. territories. Nationals are allowed to work and live anywhere in the U.S., but they can't vote or hold elective office.

The challengers said that the law violates the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that birthright citizenship does not automatically apply to the nation's unincorporated political territories.

The government of American Samoa has argued that automatic U.S. citizenship could undermine local traditions and practices.

People born there who want full citizenship must leave the territory and live in a U.S. state for at least three months to apply for naturalization.

Many complain that the inconvenience and expense of the process deters them from pursuing citizenship.