Eni seeks local leaders opinions on proposed immigration reform bills
Congressman Faleomavaega Eni is seeking suggestions and recommendations from local leaders on four proposed pieces of federal legislation that he plans to introduce into the U.S. House for inclusion into the broader federal immigration reform bill that Congress will consider in months ahead.
“As our people continue to face uncertainties in the area of immigration reform,” Faleomavaega informed the Lolo Administration and the Fono that he intends to “introduce certain provisions addressing four major areas for our people and our Pacific Island community.”
“For years, our people have been required to travel to Hawaii or another U.S. state and live there for at least three months before they qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship,” wrote Faleomavaega in a letter this week. “In my opinion our people should be permitted to apply directly for citizenship from American Samoa.”
He says English and civics requirements in the citizenship test should be waived as both subjects are taught in local schools. Additionally, application fees should be affordable for low income applicants, and a fee waiver program should also apply.
As previously reported by Samoa News, the governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo J. Pereira said that Faleomavaega had informed the governor this week that this proposal is an “option” for those U.S. Nationals who want to apply from the territory and does not force citizenship on anyone.
Faleomavega says he has also stressed the importance of addressing the needs of Samoans and other Pacific Islanders whose Visas have expired while living in the United States.
“Currently, federal law requires immediate deportation for overstayers, imprisonment, or both,” he said. “A path to legal status for visa overstayers must be a primary consideration as part of the current immigration reform efforts.”
Faleomavaega also says that he is “concerned by the dilemma” faced by “stateless” individuals, who are not citizens of any country. “Unlike refugees or those who seek political asylum, stateless individuals often find themselves without a country to claim citizenship and nowhere to go,” he said and noted that a “good example of this is Mr. Mikhail Sebastian” who has been stuck in American Samoa for more than a year.
“There are two other stateless individuals who somehow managed to enter American Samoa under questionable circumstances,” said the Congressman, who didn’t elaborate further on the two individuals or identify them by name.
Sebastian’s case has been widely publicized both locally and in off-island news media, and has attracted the support and attention of the UN Refugee Commission and other U.S. groups fighting for stateless individuals.
In his letter, Faleomavaega says that with more than 4,000 stateless people living in the United States, these individuals should be given legal residency as well.
Sebastian,who is still trying to get clearance from the Samoa government to enter Apia to get his documents from the U.S. Embassy there to enter Los Angeles, has written to the Congressman for introduction of federal legislation under immigration reform to address the plight of stateless individuals living in the U.S.
“I also support the [federal] DREAM Act legislation that will provide a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship for Pacific Island children who were brought to the United States at an early age, with no legal status, and certainly by no fault of their own,” he wrote.
Faleomavaega said last summer, when Congress was working on identical legislation, that “many of our Pacific Islander families have immigrated to the U.S. through the visa process in search of better opportunities and a higher quality of life.
“Unfortunately, due to misunderstanding and misinformation regarding the U.S. immigration system, many have overstayed, including their children,” he said.
Samoa News should point out that a group or groups have put together a website dedicated to the Dream Act, which provides more details: [www.dreamact.info]
Faleomavaega says he welcomes “any suggestions or recommendations” that the governor and the Fono “may want to include in this effort to improve federal immigration laws as they are applicable to our territory.”
In conclusion, Faleomavaega says he was recently named as Co-Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) on Immigration Reform. He looks forward to serving with colleague U.S. Rep. Mike Honda of California on this panel.
“I am confident that the needs of our Asia-Pacific American community will definitely be addressed before the Congress in the months to come,” he added.