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Court says Immigration submitted "fraudulent" documents for an overstayer

American Samoa District Court building
Judge Patea tells government attorney to do something about it

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea said during an evidentiary hearing for Pisoma Kimo this week that documents presented to the court by an Immigration officer a few months ago regarding Kimo's immigration status were “fraudulent”.

Patea has left it up to the government to decide what they should do about the false documents presented to the court — but added that something must be done about it.

Judge Patea said Kimo was arrested for public peace disturbance in March of this year; but due to his illegal immigration status, the court ordered that Kimo be held in custody without bail.

Kimo appeared in District Court last month for a pretrial conference, where his immigration status was questioned. An Immigration officer told the court that Kimo holds a P5 status and his immigration ID expired June 21, 2018.

Moreover, a document provided by the same Immigration officer to the court during that hearing showed that Kimo was authorized by Immigration to remain in American Samoa until April 22, 2019, which was the same date Kimo was scheduled to take his new immigration ID.

Upon receiving the document from the Immigration officer, the court was curious as to why Immigration would allow Kimo to renew his immigration status, despite the fact that his immigration ID expired almost a year ago.

Patea then scheduled an evidentiary hearing and issued subpoenas for the Chief Immigration Officer, or his deputy, to appear in court to explain the process that allowed Kimo to renew his Immigration ID.

Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Fagamalama Fualaau was present for the evidentiary hearing this past Monday afternoon. Kimo, represented by Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson, was also present.

Patea asked Fualaau to explain to the court the Immigration office procedure for renewing immigration IDs for foreigners, including those whose IDs have been expired for more than 30 days.

According to Fualaau, in order for an alien to renew his/her expired immigration ID, a person must submit several documents including clearances from the court and the LBJ Hospital; and fill out a form from the Immigration office which must also be signed by the sponsor.

After submitting these documents, an assigned Immigration officer compiles the paper work and transfers it to the Immigration panel, which consists of senior Immigration officials including the Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) and his deputies, for review.

A hearing date is then set for the alien and the sponsor to appear before the panel, before the alien is permitted to take a new immigration ID, which is valid for one year.

“What is the Immigration office procedure for an immigration ID which is expired for more than 30 days?” Patea asked.

Fualaau replied that Immigration will deny the alien’s application for renewal, and the alien will get the chance to appear before the Immigration Board to appeal his/ her application.

For Kimo’s case, Patea asked Fualaau to explain whether Kimo ever went through the Immigration Office process when he applied for an ID renewal.

Fualaau said no.

“Kimo’s application for ID renewal never went through the process. I was the one who stopped the form when a family member came up to my office to pay for the new immigration ID,” Fualaau explained.

Patea asked Fualaau why she did that.

Fualaau said the form never went through the correct process, and she found out that Kimo was in custody.

"So, I have to stop the application and wait for the court’s judgment on why Kimo is in custody.”

The judge then instructed the Clerk of the Court to hand over to the witness, some documents — the same documents presented to the court by an Immigration officer assigned to handle cases pertaining to illegal aliens in District Court.

According to Patea, the reason why the court called the hearing is because no dates appear on the documents to show when the application was filed, a hearing date, and when Kimo is scheduled to take his new immigration ID.

When Patea asked Fualaau if she's ever seen these documents before, the witness said no.

“So, that means none of those documents comply with your renewal process?” Patea asked.

Fualaau replied, “That’s right, your honor.”

Defense attorney Anderson asked the court to release his client to Immigration, so he can renew his immigration status.

Patea disagreed.

The judge said that based on the witness testimony, the court is now satisfied that there was no letter from Kimo's sponsor to apply for an ID renewal, nor a confirmation from Immigration to allow Kimo to continue to remain in American Samoa.

Therefore, Kimo is here illegally.

“Now, you want us to allow him back to community? No, we won’t. His immigration status is now illegal and he has to go back to where he come from,” Patea told Anderson.

As for the false documents presented to the court by the Immigration officer, Patea told the government’s attorney that it's up to the government to decide what to do about them.