In American Samoa, a person of Samoan descent and a person of other descent are treated differently under bankruptcy law. Per A.S.C.A. § 43.1528(a):

No real property of a Samoan may be subject to sale under a writ of a court to satisfy any judgment other than a judgment foreclosing a valid mortgage. “Samoan” includes American Samoans of at least one-half Samoan blood and persons born on other islands in the Pacific Ocean who are of at least one-half Polynesian, Melanesian or Micronesian blood and who reside in American Samoa.

It was my understanding that the 14th amendment provided equal protection of the law, and that laws with an explicit race test have been deemed unconstitutional. What exception allows this law to be considered constitutional?

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    American Samoa is special in many ways and officially is unincorporated and unorganized: for example many people born in American Samoan are not U.S. citizens (but are U.S. nationals). The treaties which led to the main islands being ceded to the United States had provisions about the protection of Samoans' property and the constitution and laws of American Samoa reflect this.
    – Henry
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 22:38
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    Please make your titles informative questions not vague words.
    – user438383
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 23:53
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    Why does your question single out "person[s] of African descent"; the text you have quoted doesn't mention Africans. Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 21:37

1 Answer 1


This is a law of American Samoa. American Samoa is not a state of the US. American Samoans are not automatic citizens under the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment says "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws".

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    This is correct. American Samoa has the least integration with the US of any inhabited US territory. By contrast, Puerto Rico, while also a territory, has equal rights laws and, except for the dominant language, operates the same as the mainland US in almost all practical contexts (voting and some Federal taxes being notable exceptions). An American of Polish descent born in Chicago has the same rights in PR as someone born there whose ancestors settled there 300 years ago. Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 13:06
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    @RobertColumbia Recently there have been a couple of public examples of people from PR being treated differently (EG Hertz and LEO) by people in the mainland US because the latter don't understand the status of PR ::eye roll::
    – Peter M
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 14:42
  • @PeterM but such treatment is not in accordance with law. Although Puerto Rican documents may not fully qualify under the "Full Faith and Credit" clause of the Constitution since PR is not a state, they are in fact recognized under statute. Both the US federal government and every state I am familiar with have statutes indicating that Puerto Rico is to be treated as equivalent to a state for the purposes of document recognition, migration, etc. For example, if you were born in Kansas, married in Puerto Rico, and live in Oregon, Oregon has no discretion to disregard your marriage. Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 14:48
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    @RobertColumbia Hence my ::eye roll:: because many people don't even understand the law in general let alone understanding the rights of people from PR. (And there are multiple YouTube channels devoted to showing LEO acting on their personal beliefs rather than the actual law)
    – Peter M
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 15:08

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