Immigration file for alleged Tongan overstayer cannot be located
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The case of a Tongan national who was supposed to leave American Samoa after her sponsor terminated her sponsorship in 2016 was never presented to the Investigating Division of the Immigration Office for review, according to a senior immigration officer (IO), who spoke to Samoa News on condition of anonymity yesterday about this case.
According to the source, the Investigating Division (ID) never received any notification regarding the matter, nor do they have a file for the woman in question as their search of immigration records came up empty.
When asked whether the Investigating Division has received a notification from the Immigration Board or the Chief Immigration Officer regarding the case of the Tongan national, the senior IO said, no.
The senior IO explained that if the sponsor of the Tongan national wished to terminate her sponsorship, the case should have been forwarded to the Investigating Division and the Tongan woman has the right to a hearing before the Immigration Board.
The immigration office would then give her 20 days to present her case before the Board.
“Our statute is clear, under Title 41 of our Immigration Laws — it's clear that the alien has the right to a hearing before the Board to hear his/ her case,” the senior IO said.
“Nothing was presented to the Board because we did not receive any documents regarding this case. The Investigating Division needs to review the file before making any determinations, but as of now, we can’t do anything because we don’t have the file," the source added.
The question about where the immigration file for the Tongan woman is, remains unanswered.
Samoa News was able to obtain copies of letters the sponsor sent to the Immigration Board and the Chief Immigration Office (CIO) regarding the case in Dec. 2016 and Apr. 2017.
The sponsor told Samoa News that she handed over everything regarding the case to one of the senior immigration officers when she sent her Termination of Sponsorship letter back in Dec. 2016.
According to the sponsor, there was a meeting between her, the senior IO and the Board regarding the case at the beginning of last year. But as of today, there has been no written decision from the Board or the Immigration Office regarding the case.
The case surfaced earlier this month after reports circulated that the Tongan woman is employed at a store in Nu’uuli, despite the fact that her Immigration ID expired in March 2017.
It's alleged that the reason why this Tongan woman is still on island is because an official in the Governor’s Office had asked the Immigration Office to not deport the woman, but allow him to be the new sponsor.
(Samoa News points out that there is a recording between the sponsor and the senior IO wherein the immigration officer names the Governor's Office employee).
Sources confirmed to Samoa News this week that the Tongan national is employed at a store in Nu’uuli.
In the meantime, the sponsor is yet to get reimbursed for the bond she paid when she sponsored the Tongan woman and even worse, she has lost about $700 for the return airline ticket she purchased for the Tongan woman, because the ticket has gone unused for more than a year and the airline per its policies will not reimburse the money.