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Tongan man who was sentenced to probation will be deported

American Samoa High Court building
His Immigration ID expired, and an application for renewal was twice denied

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man who was convicted in 2010 for unlawful drug possession has been ordered by the High Court to depart American Samoa and return to his home country for the duration of his 15-year probation term.

Paea Fokieti appeared in court last week for a probation violation hearing.

A representative from the Probation Office testified that among the conditions of probation for Fokieti, is that he get a job.

When he was sentenced in August 2010, Fokieti was to serve 60 months behind bars; but after serving 34 months at the TCF, Fokieti sought release so he could find a permanent job to care for his family.

In May 2014, the court rendered its decision. Fokieti was released from jail under the condition that he secures gainful employment.

Fokieti found a job at a local bakery and was able to get a paycheck, according to information revealed in court. However, he was taken into custody by order of the Immigration Office, after his immigration ID expired.

Information revealed in court states that twice, Fokieti submitted requests to the Immigration Board to renew his immigration papers so he could remain in American Samoa; but both times, the board rejected the request.

Now that Fokieti is no longer employed, the Probation Office filed a motion in High Court to revoke his probation.

Fokieti’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill asked the court to give the defendant two weeks so he could work on renewing his immigration papers, but the court rejected the request.

According to the court, they have no authority to keep a foreigner in American Samoa if that person’s immigration papers are not in order; only the Immigration Office has that authority.

The court then asked the defense attorney to be specific about what he is asking the court to do. McNeill said he is asking for an order from the court to allow Fokieti to remain in the territory as he works towards renewing his immigration papers.

(It was also revealed during the hearing that Fokieti’s two children, who were born in American Samoa, are still in the territory, but his wife is currently living in Alaska).

In the end, the court amended Fokieti’s probation and he was ordered to depart the territory and remain outside of American Samoa for the remainder of the 15-year probation sentence that was handed down in 2010.

The court reiterated that they have no authority to keep a foreigner in the territory if that person’s immigration papers are not valid.

Fokieti remains in custody, awaiting the day of his return to his home country of Tonga.