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Judge asks defendant where his sponsor is … and is he married or not?

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — An overstayer from Samoa who told the court last week that his wife has already filed papers to renew his immigration status has been remanded to custody without bail until his next hearing on Feb. 26th.

Migao Siliga appeared twice last week before District Court Judge ElvisP. Patea for a Status Hearing. He is charged with one count each of public peace disturbance and third degree assault — both misdemeanors. He was arrested Dec. 20, 2019 and made his initial appearance the following day. But due to his illegal immigration status, Patea ordered that he be remanded to custody without bail to await a follow up hearing on Jan. 14th.

On that day, Siliga failed to appear in court and his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson told the court that Siliga did not answer the phone when he called him.

The court said Siliga was remanded because of his illegal immigration status. But Anderson explained that his client was released after his initial appearance in late Dec. 2019.

A subsequent court date was scheduled for Jan. 14th, but Siliga failed to show up. It wasn't until later, towards the end of the court's calendar that day, that Siliga was escorted in by a TCF guard.

When asked where he was, Siliga said he’s been in custody since his Dec 20th arrest.

Sunia looked at Anderson and told him Siliga was sitting in a TCF cell when he was trying to call him. With regards to his immigration status, Siliga said his sponsor is off island. “You told the court during your first hearing that your sponsor is a person by the name of Faatele Faatele, Is that right?” the court asked. Siliga said yes, adding that his sponsor is from Tafuna but currently off island.

“You also told the court that you are married, and your wife is working at the cannery.”  Siliga said his wife is a US National. Sunia looked confused. He asked Siliga, why he needs a sponsor when his wife is a US National.

Siliga said his wife has already filed a petition to Immigration to take over sponsorship from Fa’atele. During Siliga’s second hearing on Feb. 3rd, an immigration officer testified that based on their records, Siliga is not married. Furthermore, their office has never received a petition from anybody to take over Siliga's sponsorship from his current sponsor, Fa’atele.

Sunia asked, “Are you lying to the court?” Siliga was silent,only shaking his head. “Alright, your next hearing is Feb. 24th. If you have any papers to prove your situation, bring it with you when you come to court that day. For now, you’re remanded to custody without bail,” Sunia ordered.