AG says there's no need to apologize to the Chinese Consulate in LA

Says law enforcement officers were doing their job
ausage@samoanews.com

Attorney General, Talauega Eleasalo Ale believes there is no need for the American Samoa Government to apologize to the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles (LA), for the incident that resulted in ASG officials arresting and detaining a Chinese man who showed up at the Post Office to claim a box with Chinese passports inside few months ago.

“Why should our government apologize?” Talauega asked. “There is no need to apologize. Law enforcement officials did their job, and when their investigation was completed, the Chinese man was released and no charges were filed against him.”

This was the Attorney General's explanation to Samoa News last week, when he was asked about the issue involving a Chinese man who was arrested and detained by police, while law enforcement agencies were conducting a joint investigation about a box that contained over 100 Chinese passports.

According to Talauega, when the joint investigation was completed, the Chinese man was released and all of the passports were given out to the people who own it.

Samoa News understands there were 136 passports altogether in the box; there were 68 new passports and 68 old passports; however, the label on the box said there were only 30 passports inside the box.

The passports were sent from the Chinese Consulate office in LA; and the man claiming the box was arrested and detained after local Customs officers on duty noted that the total passports inside the box was 138 — not 30.

According to information provided to Samoa News, four law enforcement agencies were involved in the investigation: the AG's Office, Customs, DPS, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHLS).

Sources tell Samoa News that it took 8 weeks for the 4 agencies to carry out the investigation — but it only took 2 hours for the Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) to complete his own investigation — by having a telephone conversation with the Chinese Consulate —and a report was then filed with the Governor's Office to confirm that the passports were legitimate, and the discrepancy with the number of passports and what was on the label was an oversight.

“The CIO called the Chinese Consulate in LA for verification, and the Chinese Consulate told him there were 138 passports inside the box — not 30. They also explained that the wrong label on the box was an honest mistake by their office,” the source said, adding that the Chinese Consulate in LA provided to the CIO a list of all the Chinese people who own passports that were inside the box.

And after the CIO verified the names on the list, the passports were released to the owners after they were contacted to pick up their passports at the AG’s office, and all of them had legal Immigration ID cards.

The Chinese man who picked up the box was detained at the Territorial Correctional Facility for almost two days before he was released.

ID CARD ISSUANCE

Regarding the issuance of ID cards, the AG is now making changes on the days ID cards are issued to the public. Instead of only one day a week — it’s now four days a week.

In an interview with Samoa News last week, Talauega said the issuing of ID cards and renewals can now be carried out from 7:30a.m. — 4:00p.m. Monday to Thursday.

Friday is set aside for the issuance of new ID cards.

Talauega said he already told House members last week that there will be changes made with regards to the days that ID cards are issued, after he "noticed the difficulties our people were facing when ID cards were issued only one day per week. So now, I have given directions to designate Monday to Thursday for ID card renewals, and reserve Friday for the issuance of new ID cards.”

The AG said that on the second day when his office made the change limiting issuance of ID cards to Wednesday only, they witnessed the problem people were facing.

Confirmed by the AG also, is that as of last week, the machine used to take photos for ID cards was not working, and the Immigration office is not issuing any ID cards until the machine is repaired.

When the initial change was made to issue ID cards on Wednesday only, one woman told Samoa News that her two children were late to school during the first and second day of the change, because there were a lot of people who were in line before them. And after two hours of waiting in line on both days, she sent her children to school while she stood in line to get her photo ID.

“I waited for over 4 hours to take my photo ID. Now the machine is not working, I have no idea when my two children are going to take their photos for their IDs. I hope this is not a repeat of the same problem the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) in Tafuna is facing right now,” the woman said.

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