Be ready to provide a valid ID when ASDHS agents come knocking
During the course of their investigative work, which includes looking into the source of illegal drugs in the territory, special agents with the local Homeland Security Department (ASDHS), will ask people who are being interviewed for their identification, according to Homeland Security director, Samana Semo Ve’ave’a during a Senate hearing on Wednesday.
Samana was among five ASG witnesses called to testify before the Senate Public Safety/ Homeland Security Committee on a Senate bill that would require drug and alcohol testing for ASG employees, including elected officials and political appointees.
During the hearing, Sen. Satele Galu Satele Sr. revealed that ASDHS staffers are asking people for their IDs, and this has prompted several complaints to his office, questioning the reason why ASDHS people are “checking on people’s IDs.”
While he can’t reveal publicly any specific details, because people have rights protected under the law, Samana said that when his agents are interviewing people during the course of their investigations, people are asked for their IDs so the agents know whom they are talking to.
If the ID is expired, that matter is turned over to police, he added.
Satele’s inquiries come at the heels of recent claims circulating in the business community about ASDHS personnel checking people’s immigration IDs to see if they are valid.
When asked by the committee during the hearing on ASDHS’ role regarding illegal drugs, Samana said he has 12 agents involved in law enforcement, coordinating with other countries, to look at several issues such as drugs entering the territory.
Another role, he added, is that the agents are out in the field at different times, conducting investigations on the source of illegal drugs and discussing it with the Department of Public Safety.
And if “there is enough evidence to bust” — then the order comes from the Attorney General, he said.
Sen. Fa’amausili Mau Mau Jr., shared with the witnesses, which included Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale, public concerns raised with senators over the large number of law enforcement officers — such as ASDHS agents and police, along with their K-9 Unit — present at the arrival area at the Tafuna Airport, where Customs agents work, even though Customs has its own K-9 Unit present at the airport.
There was no reaction from either Samana or Talauega on the issue.
In an Aug. 2nd memo, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga appointed the American Samoa Drug Control Commission (ASDCC) and tasked it to among other things, “reducing and eliminating the supply of illicit drugs” in American Samoa.
ASG entities that are members of the ASDCC are: Governor’s Office, Office of Samoan Affairs, Agriculture, Education, Health, Human Resources, Youth and Women’s Affairs, Port Administration, Public Safety, Treasury, Human and Social Services, Homeland Security, and Legal Affairs. (See Samoa News Aug. 11th edition for details).
DPS and ASDHS are also members of the Governor’s Task Force for Domestic Security.