Territory-issued IDs are ‘no-go’ on Feb. 5 — issuance of CI on hold
The Lolo Administration is prepared to transmit a letter later this week to the US Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) outlining American Samoa’s implementation plan for full compliance with the federal REAL ID Act regarding locally issued driver’s license and identification cards.
While driver’s licenses are issued by the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV), ASG ID cards are issued by the Office of Vital Statistics, a bureau of the local Department of Homeland Security. Samoa News understands that ASG is exploring having the ID cards also be issued by OMV.
As previously reported by Samoa News it was in October 2016 that American Samoa was given a one-year extension to comply with the REAL ID Act, which has been in place for several years. The extension expired last October.
In a Jan. 19 news release, the USDHS announced in what it calls a “notice... to American Samoa” that beginning Feb. 5, residents of American Samoa will no longer be able to use territory-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards to fly domestically or enter federal buildings and military installations.
USDHS recalled that American Samoa formerly had an extension that allowed federal agencies to continue to accept its driver’s licenses and identification cards. But that extension expired Oct. 10 of last year, triggering a three-month grace period before enforcement would begin Feb. 5 this year.
“American Samoa has subsequently not been able to demonstrate a clear achievable plan for compliance as needed to receive a new extension,” according USDHS, which added that the federal agency continues to work with American Samoa on what actions it can take to receive a new extension.
Responding to Samoa News questions, the governor’s executive director, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira explained that Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga had send a letter to USDHS requesting an extension to the Feb. 5 deadline, but it was denied.
The governor called a meeting yesterday with Lt. Gov. Lemanu Sialega Palepoi Mauga, Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson, local Homeland Security Department director Samana Semo Ve’ave’a and “supporting staff to determine our course of action to comply with the Real ID provisions,” he explained.
“The Governor received the notification from USDHS denying the extension request but left room for a new request detailing what we have done to move towards compliance,” he said, adding that the request letter is being prepared for transmittal before the end of the week; and will contain the Real ID Compliance Implementation Plan for American Samoa.
Last week, local officials held a conference call with US Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives, who met with Lemanu in Oakland and Hawai’i to fashion a compliance strategy to the dictates of the Real ID requirements as prescribed by the Homeland Security Act.
Iulogologo said FEMA is eager to work with American Samoa to move towards compliance with the federal law and that Lemanu had expressed Lolo’s concern over possible entry problems into Hawa’ii for US Nationals residents, who use Certificate of Identification (CI) for travel.
The Act prohibits the use of the CI as an ID to enter federal buildings and other sensitive facilities come Feb. 5th.
However, on the issue of Immigration, this matter is being taken up with the federal Immigration people in Hawai’i, he said.
Two individuals, who were planning to travel to the US — via Hawai’i — later next month — told Samoa News of being informed by the CI office, which is part of the Attorney General’s Office, that issuance of CIs have temporarily been put on hold and they won’t know any update on CI issuance until around Feb. 5th. The two individuals have since expedited the processing of their US Passports.
Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale didn’t immediately respond to Samoa News inquiries for confirmation on this matter.
In its Jan. 19th news release, USDHS said it has provided grants and offered technical assistance to support compliance with the REAL ID security requirements for American Samoa.
During a House committee hearing in August 2016, then Police Commissioner Save Liuato Tuitele told lawmakers at the time that the cost involved to be in compliance with the Real ID Act “is humongous” for American Samoa.
He said the original USDHS funding to American Samoa was $300,000 but between 2008 and 2013 there were five change orders for the project increasing the total award to $1.9 million.
Furthermore, the last payment from USDHS to American Samoa went to purchase items like computers and cameras for the system upgrade, and the full $1.9 million has been used.
(See Samoa News Aug. 16, 2016 edition for details. Samoa News notes that the Lolo Administration took office in January 2013.) He also said that DPS was working with the ASDHS to meet REAL ID compliance.
Meanwhile, USDHS provided an online link of the type of identify documents for passengers to bring to the airport for flying domestically: www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.
Among them is a US passport, which currently takes about 6-8 weeks for routine processing and 2-3 weeks for expedited service, says USDHS. (More information on https://www.dhs.gov/real-id)