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Man agrees to depart the territory after his wife drops the ball on his immigration papers

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — It was during the sentencing of a man convicted of disturbing the public peace that Judge Elvis P. Patea said that the court would not allow any person to stay in the territory against local Immigration Laws.

Eneliko Apelu was facing charges of public peace disturbance and trespass; but under a special plea agreement with the government, Apelu pled guilty to public peace disturbance, and the remaining charge was dismissed.

Court information revealed that Apelu entered the territory on a 30-day permit two years ago, and then married a US National. But his wife never filed the proper legal documents for him to change his immigration status.

During sentencing, Judge Patea denied the defense’s motion to continue the matter for 3 weeks, to allow the defendant to get his Immigration identification (ID) card. Patea said there are two ways to solve Apelu’s issue of overstaying: he either has to register at the Immigration Office to become a legal alien, or return to Samoa and re-enter using a legal entry permit.

As part of the plea agreement between Apelu and the government, the defendant agreed to depart the territory, and return when his Immigration papers are ready. Apelu’s attorney informed the Court that his client has agreed to depart the territory by Friday, and his wife will pay his airfare.

The Court sentenced Apelu to 15 days in prison and a fine of $100; however, the defendant’s sentencing will be continued to Monday — for the detention part — but he has to pay the fine.

Judge Patea told Apelu the reason why the Court is continuing his sentence to Monday, is to give him the chance to depart the territory voluntarily. The Court noted that it appears the defendant’s wife dropped the ball by not filing the proper papers with Immigration — to show that Apelu is her legal spouse.

“This is a special message for you Apelu: if you don’t leave by Monday, your case will be called again and the court will issue its decision on your case. If the court gives its order for you to depart the territory, you will be detained in prison to await the date of your departure,” Patea said.

The government claims that Apelu was intoxicated during the time of the offense for which he is charged. Apelu went to the home of another family and challenged the man who lived there to a fight. Instead of coming out to fight Apelu, the man called police and Apelu was arrested and charged.