New Zealand and American Citizenship

Grind for December 19th
“Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs, he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche


The Headline

Specialists recover bodies from New Zealand’s White Island

The Grind

A team of specialists is braving uncertain conditions on New Zealand’s Whakaari/White Island to recover the bodies of those killed during a volcanic eruption earlier this week.

“We have operators on the island. As I said last night, there are many things that could go wrong with the plan given we don’t control all of the circumstances,” said police deputy commissioner Mike Clement. “The wind direction’s not perfect…[but] the volcano is behaving, the sea has stayed manageable, and so all of those things are in our favor at the moment.”

Volcano specialists (vulcanologists) are monitoring conditions on the island in real time in case the team needs to evacuate. Experts say there is a 50-60% chance Whakaari will erupt again before Friday night.

“The operation is taking more time than expected, this is due to the protective equipment the recovery team is wearing, which can be restrictive and heavy but is necessary,” added Clement.

The Details

Whakaari is an active volcano situated 30 miles from the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The volcano holds the record for longest eruption episode, blowing up continuously from 1975 to 2000.

After 2000, the most recent eruptions occurred in 2012 and 2016.

Access to the island is restricted to guided tours and scientific missions.

There were 47 people on the island during Monday’s eruption – all of them tourists or tour staff. Eight people were killed and dozens injured. As of Friday evening (local time), only six bodies had been recovered.

“None of this should have happened and it scares me to think of the risks those guys have had to take,” said Joshua Kauta, a local Ngati Awa. “Anything could happen, she’s unpredictable. She shouldn’t be taken for granted anymore.”

What Do You Think?

The Headline

Should people born in American Samoa be granted American citizenship?

The Grind

On Thursday, Judge Clark Waddoups of the US District Court for the District of Utah ruled that American Samoans are US citizens and should receive documents reflecting that status.

It is unclear whether the ruling applies to American Samoans living outside Utah.

“[The ruling] is an overwhelming victory, but it’s the first step in what will likely be several more steps,” says Neil Weare, attorney and founder of the non-profit organization Equally American.

The Details

American Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific that has been a US territory since 1900. The island’s population of 56,000 cannot vote in US elections.

In 2016, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals said the Constitution does not guarantee US citizenship for people born in American Samoa (as it does to people born in other US territories).

Judge Waddoups’s decision, which contradicts the 2016 ruling, stems from a case brought by a group of American Samoans living in Utah. The plaintiffs – represented by Weare – argued that their status as “non-citizen nationals” prevented them from employment opportunities.

“It doesn’t feel very good when the federal government says you’re American, but not quite the same as other Americans, just a little bit different,” says Weare. “Just being able to say they’re real American citizens, I think that goes a long way, in addition to being able to vote.”

Did you know… Duracell, the battery-maker, built parts of its new international headquarters using materials from its own waste.