Over 2400 foreign nationals sign up for amnesty program
More than 2,400 foreign nationals who registered during the recent amnesty campaign will be allowed to reside legally in American Samoa if the Fono approves the Lolo Administration’s Immigration Amnesty bill in their next regular session.
The Amnesty Bill will temporarily increase the existing numerical quotas as prescribed by law.
The proposed legislation—sent to the Fono last week— also included just over 1,000 people lawfully present and already in the Immigration Board queue awaiting their quota to become available. The total number of foreigners to be allowed under the proposed amendment to current law stands at 4,111.
In his June 26 letter to Fono leaders, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said the government spent several months organizing and carrying out a campaign to provide a pathway to amnesty for the many foreigners currently residing in the territory without lawful immigration status.
According to the governor, this situation occurred for a number of reasons, many of which have been or are being addressed, along with a numerical quota system that perhaps should be revisited as the numbers date from the mid-1980s.
Further to this effort, the proposed amendments to current law (ASCA 41.0301) will provide a temporary increase in the numerical quotas on the issuance of registration cards, and this action will allow the Immigration Board, “on a one time basis only” to address the status of the many aliens who are residing in the territory without current legal authorization.
“The people we are talking about are contributing members of society, in some cases along with their families, who have fallen into circumstances not always of their own making,” the governor wrote in the letter.
“We owe them the opportunity to become full-fledged members of the community so they can fully partake in all community affairs and be fully counted for public planning purposes, and when federal assistance decisions are made arising out of our population count,” he explained.
(Several federal funding amounts are based on population numbers and many in the community, including several lawmakers, have argued that the 2010 Census for the territory, with a population of 55,519 was undercounted, because there was a 3.1% decline from the 2000 Census.)
According to the governor, the legislation proposes an increase in the existing quotas to account for 2,474 foreigners who registered under the amnesty campaign “plus another 1,637 who were lawfully present and already in the Immigration Board queue awaiting their quota to come available.”
“Because we are very near the end of fiscal year 2014, we are providing for quotas to open for fiscal year 2015 only,” Lolo said. (FY 2014 ends Sept. 30, 2014 while FY 2015 starts Oct. 1, 2014 and ends Sept. 30, 2015.)
“Much work has gone into this effort to date and now is our opportunity to clear the long list of aliens who are in the territory and have been awaiting the chance to be properly registered,” he said and expressed appreciation to the Fono for an early review of the amnesty legislation.
According to the administration proposal, citizens of Samoa are the highest nationality recorded, at 2,845— followed by Tonga at 457, Filipino at 446, Fiji with 101, China 96, Korea 12, New Zealand 19, and Vietnamese 17.
Other countries included in the bill—but all with less than ten citizens are: Australia, Tuvalu, Germany, Indonesia, Federated States of Micronesia, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Great Britain, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Taiwan.
The Fono convenes on July 14, 2014 for the 4th Regular Session of the 33rd Legislature. At this point it appears the two main issues for lawmakers to tackle will be the amnesty legislation and the FY 2015 budget.