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Dear Editor,

In American Samoa, the common practice of a sponsor or employer believing, they own their sponsored person/ employee and is their property is becoming more visible.

What is more frightening is when a person has the power to influence the formidable Immigration Board to break the law in their favor.

This influence from my point of view, as Mrs. Intila’s advocate, also involves the swift attempts and maneuvering of others working in sequence within the department. Such as; manipulating the time factor, harassing the victim, hunting them down to serve them pieces of papers to silence them and quick attempts to illegally deport through the Customs exit. As is this case against Mrs. Intila.

The accusations embellished in the Hon. Rep. Vui Florence Saulo’s letter to the Chief of Immigration and the Immigration Board is petty compared to the blatant injustices deliberately made against the accused. Ignored by the IB is that the Immigration laws are also designed to protect the rights of the foreigner.

It appears the process of the law is being manipulated to suit the demands of a powerful and influential person — in this case Fono member, Rep. Vui. Members of the Immigration Board did not follow their own procedures. They denied the victim due process and deprived her of her voice in defense of the accusations levied against her, by Rep. Vui — the victim has the right to appeal.

Allegedly this influence, led by senior immigration agent Mr. Puni is instrumental in assisting this deception by misleading and providing inconsistent  information to the victim that lead to the confusion and overstaying.

Attempts were made to force the victim off the island by giving her no option but to get on the plane and leave.

Forcing frightened and helpless victims to sign the Voluntary Departure form while under extreme duress, seems to be quite the common practice. (Leaving voluntarily allows you to return in ONE year).

It amazes me that the IB would willingly agree to punish a foreigner, barring her from reentering American Samoa for 10 years. A decision that is far beyond their authority and jurisdiction.

Mrs. Intila didn't commit a crime, neither did she violate the law.

Contrary to Rep.Vui;s letter, the immigrant is not the danger, the danger is the system knowingly breaking the laws it is sworn to uphold. Immigration law is very specific. None can be deported without a proper hearing and uphold the Appeals process.

As I see it, the integrity of the entire Immigration Office has been compromised by the esteemed members of the Immigration Board. Their actions should be held suspect and accountable in the attempts of violating the victims’ rights.

There is a serious fracture under the Attorney General’s watch when the IB practices these questionable procedures with impunity.

This is not an isolated incident against a person from the Philippines. There is tremendous fear of retribution amongst the sponsored community when they attempt to seek assistance. Usually it is from injustices made against the foreigner and their families; cover-up attempts for local criminals or protecting rogue sponsors.

It is also a known fact and cruel reality, of the swift retaliation efforts that are made against many sponsored persons if they try to exercise their freedom of choice.

Unfortunately because of unbridled power wielded by influential persons with money, many doors mandated and funded by the US Federal Dept. to assist victims of human and labor trafficking, violence and abuse are shut.

As a provocative thought for awareness; concealed under this power of influence are victims of human trafficking, labor trafficking, drugs, together with sexual and child trafficking to include illegal smuggling. Thanks to Homeland Security for your actions.

Working as a victims’ advocate my many personal experiences with the IB; there is a lack of these presences; DHSS — offering safety thru shelters, Department of Public Safety — offering protection, NGOs — offering accompaniment assistance. With these doors closed, so are medical and interrupted education.

Through this gaping door is the opportunity to illegally deport or force enslaved victims for the sake of their families and children to get a piece of the “American Samoan Dream “.

Ipu Avegalio Lefiti,

Victims Advocate