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Faleomavaega disappointed about plight of stateless person in American Samoa

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Faleomavaega has written directly to Secretary Janet Napolitano of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expressing his disappointment in the matter of Mr. Mikhail Sebastian, a stateless person who remains in American Samoa since December 2011.

The full text of Faleomavaega's letter to Secretary Napolitano is included below:

Dear Madam Secretary:

I am writing in response to a letter I received from Mr. Elliot Williams, Assistant Director of Congressional Relations with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) dated September 13, 2012 on your behalf regarding Mr. Mikhail Sebastian (A#: 074-667-100; DOB: February 26, 1973), a stateless person that has been residing in my District since December 2011.

I had hoped that your personal intervention, given American Samoa's unique immigration laws, would have allowed Mr. Sebastian to return to the U.S. since he has not violated any laws while living in the U.S. for the past 17 years.

It is clear to me that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has no sense of compassion for Mr. Sebastian who is a law abiding resident, has maintained employment, paid his taxes, and complied with all immigration laws that he was required to follow.  Mr. Sebastian made sure in every way not to travel outside of the U.S. by only vacationing in the U.S. states and territories.  I am very disappointed by DHS's decision not to allow Mr. Sebastian to return to the U.S. given President Obama's recent efforts to allow for prosecutorial discretion on unauthorized individuals in the U.S. and deferred action for individuals who entered as children.

Currently, U.S. immigration law does not allow for stateless individuals to apply for lawful permanent status, an important matter Congress is trying to change for an estimated 4,000 stateless individuals remaining in the U.S.  Mr. Sebastian is one of many victims of our immigration system that does not provide for stateless persons. This is a humanitarian issue that both the Administration and the Congress must work closely to resolve.

It is apparent that ICE's decision to deny Mr. Sebastian's parole application was strictly on the basis that he left the U.S. when he travelled to both American Samoa and the Independent State of Samoa. As you know, American Samoa has its own immigration laws even though it's a U.S. territory. Furthermore, American Samoa's immigration system does not provide or grant any relief to stateless individuals.

The fact that Mr. Sebastian travelled to Samoa for a two-day visit is the reason to deny him reentry to the U.S. is inexcusable. I find that Mr. Sebastian's case warrants every consideration for humanitarian reasons knowing that he has lived in the U.S. since 1995 when he arrived from his native country of Azerbaijan, a republic of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Mr. Sebastian is ineligible to work in American Samoa and is now living under extreme conditions with no means of supporting himself.

Faleomavaega concluded his letter by stating, "I am hopeful that you will reconsider the denial of Mr. Sebastian's application and allow him to return to the United States."

(Editor’s Note: several months ago Mr. Sebastian visited Samoa News with his story, and when a reporter contacted the AG’s office for information and assistance, they were told that “it was being handled” and “it was under control”. The assistant AG who had been assigned to the case has since left island, and it is not immediately clear if anything further was done at the local level to assist Mr. Sebastian.)