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Tuaolo wants AG and Immigration to address issue of overstayers

Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean, a retired Associate Judge of the High Court, has raised questions on what Immigration is doing to stop the many “overstayers” whose illegal statuses surface only when they appear in court.

During yesterday’s Senate session, Tuaolo suggested to Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to hold a hearing next Wednesday to find out from the Attorney General and the Chief Immigration Officer, what Immigration is doing to prevent the longstanding issue of “overstayers” — which has become a serious one.

According to Tuaolo, lately, he has learned that countless court decisions being handed down are for "illegal overstayers" — something he says is not good for American Samoa because it seems as if people who want to do bad things ("amio leaga") come to the territory to carry it out.

What comes to mind, Tuaolo continued, is that the court is starting to do the Executive Branch’s job — and that is, identifying overstayers, in their decisions.

The Maoputasi senator said hardly a day goes by that the newspaper isn't reporting something about an overstayer being identified during court decisions.

(Samoa News notes that the majority of decisions handed down in criminal cases involving overstayers calls for them to be deported from the territory.)

“The question now is, what is Immigration doing?” Tuaolo asked out loud, adding that a person enters the territory under a 14-day permit, and won’t leave; but instead is free to do as they wish… spending years in the territory and their illegal status is discovered by the court only after a crime is committed.

Tuaolo said the AG and the Immigration Office should tell the Senate why there are many overstayers in the territory, and what Immigration is actually doing to prevent this problem from occurring over and over again.

One day soon, said Tuaolo, the court will raise the question: “What is the Fono doing” about this serious problem?

Senate President Pro Tempore, Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga — who presided over yesterday’s session — agreed with Tuaolo. He said the issue also raises an important question on what “we are doing” to address this serious problem. 

Tuiagamoa agreed and scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday.

A serious concern raised by many community members, has to do with overstayers who commit serious crimes such as rape and child molestation, especially when the victim is a young child.

The most recent case was reported last December when Kose Logova’a, also known as Siliva Logova’a, was sentenced by the High Court after he was convicted — under a plea agreement — of having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl.

According to the court, the defendant entered American Samoa on a 30-day permit in Apr. 5, 2018. He was supposed to return to Samoa on May 5, 2018; however, he continued to reside in the territory illegally, until he was arrested for having a sexual relationship with the 13-year-old victim, who is a relative.