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Eni to hold forum on proposed INA legislation

fili@samoanews.com

In an effort to gather public opinion and input on two proposed pieces of federal legislation, Congressman Faleomavaega Eni will hold a public forum, next month, in the territory with the date to be announced soon.

The first proposal seeks to amend provisions of the federal Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) to allow foreigners who have been long time legal residents of American Samoa to apply for U.S. National status.

In August, the Congressman sent a copy of the draft legislation to Gov. Togiola Tulafono and all members of the Fono for their input and suggestions before a decision is made on whether to introduce the measure in the U.S. House.

Faleomavaega explained that the proposal would grant U.S. National status in three categories for long time residents in American Samoa and one category provides for any person who has continuously lived in American Samoa since the age of 5 years or under and has graduated from high school.

Current law allows only those born in American Samoa or who have a parent born in American Samoa eligible to become U.S. Nationals.

However, Faleomavaega has said this does not do justice to some 4,000 long time residents that have lived continuously in American Samoa for 20 years or more, paid taxes to the American Samoa Government, donated to their churches and contributed to American Samoa society in many ways.

The second proposed bill would allow U.S. Nationals living in American Samoa to apply from the territory, directly to the federal government for U.S. citizenship.

Speaking on his weekly radio program, the Congressman said the forum will provide the opportunity for the public to provide their views and opinion on these proposals. He said he wants to make sure that there is sufficient public input on these measures because they affect the territory as whole.

"Whether you agree or disagree with these proposals, I would like to hear from you," he said and thanked the Fono leadership and lawmakers for allowing him to address these two issues during a joint Fono hearing in September. He said this hearing provided the excellent opportunity to hear directly from lawmakers.

Responding to a caller on the U.S. National status bill, Faleomavaega said there are many foreigners who have lived legally in the territory for more than 10 years - some of them 30 years or more and contributed to the territory.

He did, however, point out that this is not going to be an easy issue if the bill is introduced in the U.S. House because there is already much controversy in the U.S. surrounding the millions of illegal immigrants living across the country.

"The goal of my proposal is to give these long time alien residents of the territory another benefit for their service to American Samoa," said Faleomavaega, who acknowledged that there is a lot of opposition to this proposal and the forum will be the best avenue to provide input and opinions.

He said the other avenue to address this issue is to put it to a referendum and have voters make the decision.



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