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Samoa reacts to USDHS suspension of seasonal workers' visas

US Charge D’Affaires to Samoa, Antone Grumble [SN file photo]
Source: Samoa Press Secretariat

The front page article published Saturday December 20 by the Samoa Observer should dispel any further concerns or panic that entry visas for Samoans to the United States are affected by the Executive Order issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security pertaining to seasonal workers visas for our citizens to enter the U.S.

This is reaffirmed by U.S. Embassy Charge’ d’Affaires, Antone Greubel who is quoted by the Samoa Observer as saying that the decision does not affect any other visa classes and Samoans may still travel freely to the United States with valid travel documents.

For the record, the Government of Samoa has been kept abreast from the start by our Foreign Affairs and Diplomatic officials in the New York, says Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (M.P.M.C.) who is also the Chief Immigration Officer, Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo.

“And government has never wavered its standing policy to maintain the mutual cooperation to work with the United States Government in all facets,” he added.

Continued Agafili, “The government through our Embassy in New York has been in discussion with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the status and progress of returning Samoans who have been convicted of felony in the US. And we have been advised regularly. 

 “Discussions have also been conducted with the US Charge D’Affaires to Samoa, Mr Antone Gruebel and he has been informed that Samoa will continue to work closely with US government in facilitating the return of Samoans who have served imprisonment terms in the US due to serious criminal convictions.

“It is crucial to highlight the fact that most, if not all of these Samoans, left the islands when they were infants and since have limited or no contacts with their relatives in Samoa. 

“Government policy requires all convicted deportees to tender to the Ministry a full criminal history, complete medical report, conditions of their people if they have been released on parole, and that they should have family contacts in Samoa before they can be issued with travel documents.

“The most challenging task is locating of their families in Samoa. They had lived the best of their lives in the US and many do not have family relatives in Samoa anymore.

“We are a small country and we have to make sure that when these people are returned to Samoa, they will have families to return to. And if they have medical and parole conditions the relevant authorities should be advised well in advance. 

“We are well aware of Samoa's obligations under international conventions and we are determined to uphold our collaborative partnership with the US.

“That is why since June 2017 seven Samoans have been returned to Samoa after assiduous efforts to locate their families and submission of their required documents.

“Like the US Department of Homeland Security, our ultimate goal is the security and wellbeing of our people and this country. The events of the recent past involving those who have been returned to Samoa have proven that meticulousness is to be exercised at all times.

“We will continue to work closely with US authorities to facilitate the pending cases at hand,” he concluded.