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Amnesty Program begins today with registration in Eastern District

fili@samoanews.com

Phase One of the Immigration Amnesty program in American Samoa will be officially launched today with the registration process.
 
The program, one of the key initiatives of the Lolo Administration, allows undocumented immigrants who have been living in the territory prior to June 30, 2013 to make their immigration status legal.
 
Registration starts in the Eastern District followed by the Central, then on to the Western and Manu’a districts. The registration process runs until Mar. 14.
 
Amnesty program committee co-chair and Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop told a cabinet meeting last week there will also be a multi-language site at the Gov. Rex Lee Auditorium, which will have translators for the Tongan, Fijian, Chinese and Filipino languages.
 
“And we will register anyone who does not have a valid immigration ID,” she said, and noted if there is an illegal immigrant not in possession of their passport at the time of registration due to one reason or another, these individuals will not be turned away.
 
She encouraged cabinet directors to help spread the word about the amnesty registration including for those who do not have in their possession a valid passport. For anyone who is unable to travel to the registration sites, a team will be sent to that person’s home for registration.
 
Jessop explained that Phase Two will be submitting a bill to the Fono that will increase, for a temporary period of time, the immigration quota for foreigners allowed in the territory. (Samoa News understands the quota increase will be based on the number of immigrants who qualify, following the registration process.)
 
Once the law is passed, she said Phase III is for processing those who have registered and these individuals will either appear before the Immigration board or in front of an Immigration commission in order to determine eligibility.
 
“From there the IDs are issued and those individuals will be allowed to live freely in the territory without fear, without looking over their shoulder,” she said, and made it clear that all individuals registering and going through the process will have a background check.
 
She also said the committee will follow all current immigration laws, which include obtaining health, police, and court clearances before anyone is issued an immigration ID card.
 
“So we are ready to go, we are ready to get started. We’re very excited about this [amnesty] program,” she said and noted that Phase 4 and final phase is for the committee to prepare a final report for submission to the governor regarding the Amnesty program.
 
Jessop told a cabinet meeting last month 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.
 
She also emphasized that all information provided during the registration period is confidential.



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