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'Stateless man’: No action by ASG will resolve his dilemma

fili@samoanews.com

American Samoa Government cannot do much at this point for the stateless person, Mikhail Sebastian, who has been stuck in American Samoa since last December after arriving in Pago Pago for a “four day holiday trip” and a one day side trip to neighboring independent Samoa.

The 39-year old native of Azerbaijan, a republic of the former USSR, is staying with a local family, who’s trying to help him along the way but so far all efforts - humanitarian and political - have failed to convince the federal government to let him return to the U.S.

Sebastian’s case was taken up in August this year by Congressman Faleomavaega Eni, who was contacted for help following the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) denial of his reentry into the U.S. via Honolulu.

Faleomavaega insisted that the U.S. government return Sebastian to California, where he had been residing for four years. Prior to that Sebastian resided in Texas for 12 years. Faleomavaega argued in his letter to the federal government that Sebastian should be returned to the U.S. for “humanitarian” reasons.

Since Samoa News reported Sebastian’s case there has been national news media attention, as well as many local and off-island inquiries as to what the American Samoa Government is doing to help Sebastian. A question also raised with Samoa News is why the Attorney General’s Office, the agency that overseas the Immigration Office, cannot deport Sebastian back to Honolulu— his point of entry into the territory.

Responding to Samoa News questions, Assistant Attorney General Vincent Kruse said Thursday, “ASG is providing Mikhail with a nominal allowance for housing and food” while he is staying with a local family.

He said Faleomavaega’s Office “is liaising with the federal government to allow Mikhail to return to the United States. To date the federal government has not granted Mikhail’s application for parole” which would allow him back into the U.S.

“As Mikhail’s request for parole has already been submitted, all we can do is wait for a decision,” he said.

As to deportation, Kruse said, “Normally, you deport a person back to the country in which they are a citizen. Unfortunately for Mikhail, he is a stateless person; he is not a citizen of any country. So we cannot send him to another country unless Mikhail has been given permission to enter.”

As a stateless person, Sebastian traveled on a World Passport and he was also holding a valid California driver’s license and his employment authorization card issued by the federal Homeland Security Department.

The World Passport is a document issued by the World Service Authority, a non-profit organization founded by Garry Davis in 1954, citing Article 13, Section 2, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to wikipedia.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S POSITION

Last month the USDHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) informed Faleomavaega that Sebastian is a stateless individual who was previously in the United States under an order of supervision with employment authorization. On Oct. 17, 1996, Sebastian was granted voluntary departure under which he was required to depart the U.S. by Nov. 18 of the same year.

“Mr. Sebastian did not leave by that date and he therefore became subject to an order of removal,” wrote Elliot Williams, assistant director for ICE Congressional Relations. He also noted that the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) applies to the U.S. and its territories, except for American Samoa, which has it own immigration system.

So when Sebastian last December traveled to both American Samoa and Samoa, “he left the jurisdiction of the INA and executed his deportation order,” said Williams, who pointed out that although Sebastian is in American Samoa, for immigration purposes under the INA, he is now outside of the United States.

Sebastian “would therefore need a valid immigration document for admission to return” to the U.S., he said. Additionally, Sebastian’s permission to re-enter the U.S. was denied in July after a review of his application.

OTHER INFORMATION

In May this year, when things appeared to have gotten worse, Sebastian made an audio recording using an iPhone to detail what had happened to him and the suffering he faced, while stranded in the territory.

In the audio recording, received by Samoa News early this month, Sebastian said, he was not aware that American Samoa— although a U.S. territory— is not under U.S. immigration laws. (See Samoa News edition of Oct. 5 for full details of the audio recording.)



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