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Governor to propose strict requirements for foreigners entering AS

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga [SN file photo]

Concerned with American Samoa being used as a conduit for extremists to enter the United States, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga is looking at making recommendations to the Immigration Board on additional steps to be taken in the vetting process for foreigners entering the territory.

American Samoa is the only US territory that controls its own borders when it comes to immigration and customs.

The governor's revelation was one of the several issues he raised during his address (delivered in the Samoan language) on Monday before a joint session of the Fono at the Gov. Rex Lee Auditorium.

The governor explained that during the recent Governors Association meeting, and again during the recent stopover visit by US Vice President Mike Pence, the issue of the affect on Pacific Island nations of foreigners — from countries like the Philippines — entering their countries.

Lolo said the reason the Vice President raised the issue was because of the many foreigners residing in American Samoa, some from the Philippines and other countries affected by the ISIS terrorist group.

The Associated Press and other international news outlets had reported that a militant aligned with ISIS, seized and took control of the lakeside city of Marawi in the Philippines in May. The Philippine military continues raids to retake control of Marawi, which is in the troubled Mindanao Province.

Speaking at the joint session, Lolo said he had discussions with local leaders and has come up with possible recommendations to the Attorney General and the Immigration Board on further improving the vetting process for foreigners seeking to enter the territory; and to fully enforce such requirements on foreigners from countries such as the Philippines, China, and other east Asian nations.

He said the current entry permit law only requires a foreigner to have a round trip ticket to and from American Samoa.

The governor said that recommendations for vetting would require foreigners to provide documents such as a police report, hospital report, a report on where the person was born and the types of job the person has had — so that “we know that the person traveling here” is not involved in any sort of terrorist activity.

Lolo made clear that “citizens of Samoa”, and US citizens, would be exempt from such proposed strict requirements.

To expand on what Pence raised with the governor, a senior ASG official told Samoa News yesterday that infiltration of one of the Philippine Provinces by ISIS is causing concern, due to terrorist activities.

Additionally, the issues mentioned by the governor in his Samoan address to the Fono reflect potential criteria to be used by the established Task Force to oversee drug and human trafficking along with deterring terrorist activities or ensuring that American Samoa is not used as the conduit through which terrorists enter the United States.

Furthermore, Immigration will have to change its method of vetting visitors to the territory by requiring the submission of information by potential visitors to the territory. The senior ASG official, who agreed to discuss with Samoa News additional information on the governor’s address, says American Samoa is also mindful of the possible backlash on local efforts to promote and develop the tourism industry.

Another ASG official added that there is a lot of ground work to be done to ensure that American Samoa obtains all relevant information to forge the development of policies to be reviewed and approved by the governor with subsequent submission to the Fono for the amendment or enactment of new laws to protect the territory’s borders from drugs, human trafficking, and terrorist activities.