Three new Immigration Board members confirmed, one rejected
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Immigration Board has three new Fono confirmed board members — Sen. Satele Aliita’i Lili’o, Misi Tauai and Faitama’i Leomiti — following Senate approval last Friday while the House gave its endorsement the day before.
However, the governor’s nomination of Vaimaona Faafetai Ialiva to the board is officially rejected by the Fono after the Senate opposed the nominee in a 4-yes and 11-no vote, while the House had already given its approval.
The Senate didn’t vote on the nomination of Rep. Vaetasi Tuumolimoli Moliga — as he is currently off island for medical reasons.
SENATE CONFIRMATION HEARING
During the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing last Friday morning, committee chairman Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai noted that only Tauai, Leomiti and Ialiva are subject to confirmation hearing while Sen. Satele Lilio — appointed by the Senate President — and Tuumolimoli, appointed by the House Speaker are not subject to confirmation hearings.
Sen. Fonoti Tafa’ifa Aufata pointed out that the Immigration Board’s important role and responsibility is to protect territorial borders and preserve its economic future for American Samoans, as there are now too many Asians on island. She noted that the children of Asians born here are US nationals and will take over the island in years to come.
Sen. Togiola T.A. Tulafono asked a series of short questions, including, if any of the nominees had requested the governor to sit on the Immigration Board. Both Tauai and Vaimaona said no, while Leomiti said he didn’t specifically ask for this board, but had informed the governor of wanting to serve on any ASG board.
Vaimaona did inform the committee that he had served on the Immigration Board several years ago during the Tauese Administration.
Asked by Togiola if any of the three nominees sponsor foreigners from Asian counties Vaimaona and Leomiti responded with a “no” while Tauai said he sponsors a Taiwanese man, who operates a barbershop across from the American Samoa Community College.
One issue of concern raised by Togiola and later by Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean is that there were no resumes provided to the Senate along with the governor’s nominations.
Tuaolo directed the Senate legal counsel to ensure that all nominees presented by the Administration for confirmation also include resumes. Tuaolo said the Senate would no longer consider any nominee presented for confirmation unless a resume is submitted with the nomination.
Togiola said it’s important that resumes are submitted for review by senators before a confirmation hearing. While he is not against nominees seeking to sit on government boards, Togiola said however that without a resume, there is no background information about the nominee for the Senate to review and for senators to have further understanding of each nominated individual.
And this, said Togiola, was the reason he asked pointed questions from the beginning including background of where the nominees worked. According to the nominees’ testimonies they are all retirees from government service including the US military.
Togiola said there has been a lot of public criticism against the Immigration Board in the past and referenced the issue raised by Fonoti of many Asians on island. If confirmed by the Fono, Togiola said it’s important that board members carry out their work with honesty and integrity as well as following the law.
Responding to Tuaolo’s question, Tauai said the reason he sponsored the Taiwanese man — going back a few years ago — is that the man’s sponsor had left, leaving the man, his wife and a two-month old infant.
And it broke his heart that the man was seeking help for his young family and he took up sponsorship of the man. Tauai also said that the man’s wife and child have a different sponsor and that he is not sure why the man first entered the territory.
While he is not an attorney, Tuaolo, a retired Associate Judge of the High Court, believed that the only way an individual American Samoan can sponsor a foreigner is for “domestic work”.
Tuaolo said he has observed a big change with many more foreigners from Asian countries in the territory. For example, at an event late last year, he saw many Vietnamese and wondered where these individuals hide on island and how they entered the territory.
Echoing Fonoti’s statement, Tuaolo noted that children of Asians that are born here becomes US nationals, and he is worried and concerned that in years to come, when the current generation has passed on, the Asians born here, will dismantle American Samoa’s Constitution to their advantage as they can do it, since they are US nationals.
The big question remains, how did they enter the territory, and why did they come here, said Tuaolo, who pointed out that there is a huge Asian population on island and also operating businesses.
Tuaolo said he hopes that the new board — with Satele Lili’o as a member and a retired Associate Judge of the High Court — will do right to protect local borders and preserve our lands for American Samoans.
(Samoa News should point out concerns by lawmakers over percieved increase of the presence of Asians in the territory is not new and has been raised in the Fono for more than 15-years.)
Sen. Alo Paul Stevenson suggested that the new board take a serious look and review of why there are different sponsors for foreigners who are couples. He said this is an issue that has surfaced in the community and should be addressed.
Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet asked the new board to look into the change of sponsorship for foreigners, who are on island, as this has been happening over and over again.
At the House committee hearing last week, there were no questions asked of the nominees.