Lolo Admin looks to fono to approve Amnesty Program
The Lolo and Lemanu Administration will officially kick off the Amnesty program, which will allow for undocumented residents in the territory to make their immigration status legal, in February.
Deputy Attorney General, Mitzie Jessop, during a power point presentation at the first cabinet meeting of the year on Wednesday, said registration will kick off next month, Feb. 18, with a deadline of March 14, 2014.
She explained upon completion of registration the Amnesty team will gather all the numbers and prepare a draft of the amendment to the law that’s needed and will then seek Fono approval.
She said the amendment will ask the Fono expand the quota limit for this fiscal year only — and those expansions will be based specifically on the count of those who have already registered. Jessop said that until the Fono approves the proposed amendments, that is when the actual review of the applications will occur.
The Deputy AG said all the applications will go through either an Amnesty Commission or the current immigration board to determine qualification and approval. “Each application will not be approved by only one person.”
The campaign regarding this program will kick off with the governor’s announcement on government owned KVZK TV today and notices will be published and aired for the public. There will also be banners placed in certain locations in the territory.
Assistant AG Vincent Kruse, who is also part of the Amnesty Team, stated notices will be sent out, so undocumented foreigners will have the proper documents needed for registration, such as a valid passport, Photo ID, birth certificate and any immigration travel documents.
Kruse said during the last Amnesty in 1998 there were about 3,000 foreigners who came forth to register, however they assume there will be a lot more who will take part in this amnesty program.
He said registration will begin on the Eastern Side, first, on February 18-21 2014; in the Central District on February 24-28; the Western Side March 3-7; and the Manu’a District March 10, 2014. At the same time the Lee Auditorium will be open the entire time — from February 18 to March 14, 2014 for everyone — including those for whom Samoan and English are not their first language.
Jessop explained the amnesty program is not “automatic” — there are qualifications that registrants must have in order to be eligible. For example, convicted felons are not eligible for the program. “I don’t believe that the Governor and Lt Governor’s intent for this program is to accept convicted criminals into our community,” she noted.
The Deputy AG stated all the information provided during the registration period is confidential. The Amnesty office will be in the EOB upstairs, next to the Public Defender’s office.
During cabinet discussion of the Amnesty Program, Commissioner of Public Safety William BIll Haleck pointed out there should be assurances to the undocumented foreigners that if they come forward, their information will not be used against them, otherwise there will not be a big turnout.
Governor’s legal counsel Steven Watson said they are already here, and the object is not to get rid of them, but to count them, so ASG can do a better job in terms of the census numbers of those who actually live in the territory.
He said the object is to also legalize their presence in the territory. As such, they will still need a sponsor, and documentations from home country to legitimize their presence.
Watson also stated one of the most important elements of the program: Unless you came into the territory before June 2013, you are not eligible to register for this program.