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Homeland Security: No evidence of human trafficking in overstayer case

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The investigation that was conducted by the local Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a case involving a Filipino woman, Joselyn M. Intila, who refused to leave the territory and her former sponsor and employer, Rep. Vui Florence Saulo, the owner of FSA Land Development, who owns and operates Siniva & Armelia’s Sewing Shop is now completed.

According to the ASDHS director, Samana Semo Ve’ave’a, the investigation is now completed and the allegation that there were possible human trafficking elements involved was not true.

“Our investigation is now completed and we found out during our procedure that there was no element to prove that an act of human trafficking was involve in this case. Our investigation is now closed, and the matter between the Filipino woman and her former sponsor and employer is now transferred to her lawyer and the Immigration Office for further action,” Samana told Samoa News via-telephone interview, yesterday morning.

During the course of the investigation, Samana told Samoa News that he was involved in the investigation and he also questioned the Filipino woman along with some witnesses. And as a result, there was no element to prove the allegations of human trafficking.

An effort to obtain a comment from the Filipino woman’s lawyer, Richard deSaulles regarding this case was unsuccessful at press time after Samoa News sent questions to deSaulles through his email.

Two weeks ago, deSaulles from the RDA Law Firm confirmed to Samoa News that there was an active investigation conducted by the DHLS regarding Intila and her former sponsor and employer, and that’s why she had not been deported back to her homeland.

deSaulles further told Samoa News that the only reason Intila has to remain on island is to await the outcome of the investigation.

Samoa News was unable to get a comment from the Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) Peseta Dennis Fuimaono yesterday, regarding the status of Intila, who is at the center of this issue.

An immigration officer who answered the office telephone told Samoa News that Peseta is still off island. When asked if she could provide any information regarding Intila’s case, she said she cannot comment on the issue regarding Intila’s case, because she’s not allowed to speak to the media on behalf of the Immigration Office (IO).

But an immigration officer who has knowledge about the case but wishes not to be identified told Samoa News that if they were notified by the DHS that their investigation was over — the matter now falls upon the IO.

“The investigation is now completed and according to the DHS, there is no criminal case against the former sponsor. That means, Intila must leave our jurisdiction right away because her status is illegal and there is no chance for her to continue to stay on island while her immigration status is illegal,” the immigration officer said.

According to the immigration officer, Intila’s immigration status expired on May 31, 2018, and her former sponsor and employer requested that the Immigration Board deport her back to her homeland, and deny her reentry into American Samoa for the next 10 years.

The immigration officer further stated the former sponsor and employer has already paid for Intila’s return airfare back to Philippines and their office must act now to enforce the law by putting her on the plane and sending her back home.

A member of the Immigration Board, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Samoa News that the board has already given the Intila 20 days to depart American Samoa on her own recognizance. If not, then she would be subject to deportation.

 “This Filipino woman needs to depart immediately because she’s an overstayer right now. When her immigration ID expired, she refused to renew her ID through her legal sponsor, which is a clear violation of immigration laws for not having a legal immigration ID to stay in American Samoa,” the board member said.

When asked which part of the immigration laws Intila allegedly violated, the board member’s response was, “This Filipino woman does not have a valid immigration ID right now because she refused to renew her ID. She is now allegedly working under a new business without the knowledge of her legal sponsor or the Immigration Board.”

According to the board member, the Immigration Office needs to do their work by enforcing immigration laws. The board member further stated that the Board cannot overstep the Immigration Office’s responsibility.

“The Immigration Office needs to wake up and do their job by enforcing our immigration laws. The situation is very simple, we have an alien whose ID expired but she did not wish to renew her ID, so, she’s now an overstayer. She also now works for another business without the knowledge of the Immigration Board. So, why is it so hard for the CIO and his people to act right now to enforce the law?” the board member asked.

According to the board member, Intila’s case is the same as the case of the 7-month pregnant Filipino woman, who was deported last April because she was an overstayer.

“The only difference was, the CIO and his staff acted so quickly to locate the pregnant Filipino woman and forcibly deport her, but for this case, they are still waiting,” the board member said.