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Amended Immigration bill OKd in final House reading

The House of Representatives approved in final reading the immigration bill to increase the number of Immigration Board members in order to broaden the base of membership and increase the number of members necessary to constitute a quorum. The administration bill asked that board members be increased from five to nine, but the House changed the number from nine to seven. 


The amended proposal sought that “at least five” of the nine members be nationals or citizens of the United States, and of American Samoan ancestry, but, the House changed it to read that all seven board members must be nationals or citizens of the United States, and of American Samoan ancestry.


The Senate rejected its version of the bill two weeks ago, following a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Division, Salo Ale informed the Senators the Attorney General’s Office had not been consulted for an opinion or comments prior to the bill’s submission to the Fono, and described the board as the group that causes “messy” situations for the Immigration Office, even suggesting perhaps the board should be dissolved.


Deputy AG Ale also testified before the Senate committee he had concerns regarding the nationalities of the other four board members not being specified in the bill. He said these individuals should also be of American Samoan ancestry.


He also disagreed with adding members to the five-member board, saying it was difficult enough to come up with the three-member quorum required under the current law, to conduct its business. He believed it will be even more difficult under the proposed law, which calls for a five-member quorum.


The House Hearing held earlier this week before the House Judiciary Committee was chaired by Rep. Florence Vaili Saulo, where they called legislative counsel Nathaniel Savali to testify on this proposed measure.


Savali reminded the House members that the Senate declined this bill after testimony by Deputy AG Ale. The legislative counsel said the Senators' decision was based on the proposed amendment that seeks to amend the current law, increasing the five board members, who must be nationals of the United States of American Samoan ancestry — to “at least five” out of nine members must be nationals or citizens of the United States of American Samoan ancestry.


According to the preamble of the measure, in the interest of good governance, and to increase public participation in key boards and commission of the government and the appointment of the board, a range of diverse and qualified persons enhances and invigorates the boards and commissions on which they serve.


The Immigration board will benefit from increasing the size of its membership from five to nine members, according to the measure, and broadening the qualifications for membership through broader public participation in its affairs will result in a more extensive range of skills and experiences being available to benefit the board.


"All of the board members shall be appointed by the governor with the consent and the approval of the Legislature,” says the bill.


The proposed bill states that the seven members shall serve for five year terms, and for no more than two consecutive terms. The original appointees, however, shall be appointed for terms of 1,2,3,4, or 5 years and members shall serve on the board until a successor is approved.


The board shall meet at times and places determined necessary by the chairman for conducting business of the board, the presence of at least five (up from three) members shall be necessary to constitute a quorum and a vote of majority will be required to decide on any issue. All members of the board, including the chairman, shall be entitled to one vote.