Traffic violator ordered to leave island after found to be an overstayer
“The Court will not allow any person to stay in the territory against our Immigration Laws” — this was the straightforward message from District Court Judge, Fiti Sunia, when the court rendered its decision yesterday morning against a man , an overstayer, who was convicted of traffic violations.
Eliko Iupeli was facing charges for two traffic citations; but under a special plea agreement with the government, Iupeli pled no contest to careless driving causing an accident, and the remaining citation was dismissed.
Court information revealed that the defendant entered the territory on a 30-day permit last year, and then married a US National. During this time, his wife never filed proper legal documents for him at the local Immigration Office to change his Immigration status.
During sentencing, Judge Sunia denied the defense’s motion to continue the matter for 4 weeks, to allow the defendant to get his Immigration Identification card (ID). Sunia told defense attorney, Ryan Nelson there are two ways to solve the issue of overstaying against Iupeli — he either has to register at the Immigration Office to become a legal alien, or return to Samoa and re-enter using a legal entry permit.
As part of the plea between Iupeli and the government, the defendant agreed to depart the territory, and return when his Immigration papers are ready. His attorney informed the Court that Iupeli agrees to depart the territory by Friday, and his wife will pay his airfare.
The Court sentenced Iupeli to 15 days in prison and a fine of $100; however, the defendant’s sentencing will be continued to Monday for the detention part, but he has to pay the fine.
Judge Sunia told Iupeli the reason why the Court is continuing his sentence to Monday, is to give him the chance to depart the territory voluntarily. The Court noted that it appears the defendant’s wife dropped the ball by not filing proper papers with the Immigration Office, to show that the defendant is her legal spouse.
“This is a special message for you Iupeli: if you don’t leave by Monday, your case will be called again and the court will issue its decision on your case. If the court gives its order for you to depart the territory, you will be detained in prison to await the date of your departure,” Sunia said.