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Filipino overstayer faces faipule in her fight to remain in territory

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The local Department of Homeland Security is conducting an investigation this week into the case involving a Filipino woman who refuses to leave the territory and her former sponsor and employer — who is Rep. Vui Florence Saulo, the owner of the FSA Land Development, which owns and operates Siniva & Armelia’s Sewing Shop as one of its subsidiaries.

This was confirmed by private attorney Richard deSaulles from the RDA Law Firm, who has been retained by the Filipino woman to help out with her immigration status case.

deSaulles told Samoa News, “We have been retained by Joselyn M. Intila to help her with her immigration status case. So we are representing her with regards to her immigration stuff.

“And the only thing I can say is that, there is an active Homeland Security investigation regarding the former sponsor and former employer. And that’s why she has not been deported because HLS is conducting an investigation.”

The sponsor of the Filipino woman, who is now an overstayer after her Immigration status expired on May 31, 2018, has asked the Immigration Board to deport her back to her homeland, and deny her reentry into American Samoa for the next 10 years in two separate letters to the Immigration Board chairperson, Fanene Edda Wyberski and to the Chief Immigration Office (CIO), Peseta Dennis Fuimaono.

Samoa News obtained copies of the two letters from the former sponsor of Intila, Rep. Vui Florence Saulo. In her letter to Fanene, Vui outlines her case against Intila.

She writes that Intila is an employee of the FSA Land Development, which owns and operates Siniva & Armelia’s Sewing Shop as one of its subsidiaries. The company hired the woman in 2008 under Special Provision requirements.

“Like all our other employees, the company invested greatly [in] Intila. Over the time she has been with us she has risen to be our best seamstress bringing in a lot of our clients. The company has been appreciative of that which is why we try to provide for them some of their necessities so that they can feel more at home here,” Vui said in her letter to Fanene.

Vui stated in her letter that sometime last year, Intila spoke to her about another couple who run a similar business like her business, who had approached her about the possibility of coming to work for them.

The business owner-faipule said that Intila told the couple that she could not betray the trust and investment that the company had put in her, and her answer was no.

“I expressed my gratitude for her sense of judgment and loyalty to the company. I honestly thought that the matter was settled and did not expect to hear of it again. Sadly, I was wrong,” Vui wrote.

Recently, Vui said she came to discover that this business couple has been employing Intila at their sewing shop. The couple allegedly picked up the Filipino woman after she got off work from her company and transported her to their sewing shop where she performed sewing for them.

“Like any other company or business, we seek only to protect ourselves from some of these unfair trade practices that can eventually ruin us. As the Board may agree, our Immigration laws were designed to protect our local population and our local businesses, among other things,” Vui writes.

She said that while foreign nationals are sometimes necessary to the growth and development of our local economy, they cannot be allowed to pit one local business against another by encouraging employee poaching.

“The foreign workers who seek employment in our Territory come here with the understanding that they are guests who are subject to our laws and policies. As hosts, we have an obligation to treat them right and fairly but we also have a duty to make sure that they do not manipulate the opportunities that are provided in ways that are adverse to our interests,” Vui says.

“That is why I am urging the Board to take a serious look at what is being perpetrated here and to stop it from going any further. I have urged the Board to deny her reentry into American Samoa for the next 10 years based on the foregoing reasons. I know that my request is an extraordinary one but I believe that it is one that is necessary to protect our local businesses.”

In her letter to Peseta, Vui states that because of the alleged illegal work Intila performed for a competitor that she needs to depart the Territory while she considers whether to renew her sponsorship under a new application and contract.

The business couple that Vui mentions in both of her letters, have denied all the allegations against them and their business. The couple is Joseph and Leuila Ioane, the owners of the Off the Rock Designs.

“Those allegations are not true,” Mr. and Mrs. Ioane told Samoa News.

“As for us, Vui has clearly stated her claim in all of this towards us. Letters sent to your office painted a picture of a sponsor who has done nothing wrong. Which is false and also a clear defamation of our character. All facts and accusation by the Faipule are overly saturated with much untruth.”

According to the couple, this story is about an immigrant woman who is oppressed by the sponsor and about forced renewal of immigration ID, which violates immigrant rights.

When the sponsor realized the immigrant did not wish to renew her ID with her, she retaliated by appearing in front of the Immigration Board and allegedly demanding deportation of Intila, the couple says.

An effort to obtain a comment from the Chief Immigration Officer was unsuccessful. An immigration officer told Samoa News that Peseta is off island. Furthermore, the officer told Samoa News that their office is still awaiting instructions from the Attorney General’s Office on what is their next move concerning Intila.