“IMMIGRATION ID FINALLY RECEIVED”

Dear Editor,

It’s been a long 4 weeks of navigating almost impossible odds in renewing a foreigner’s P-5 ID. (see issue Nov. 3, 2016 for more details.) And, it was obvious to me plots were involved to circumvent the processing of Ms. Gumanab’s application.

Plots to discourage or cause me to give up or stop me from pursuing the application. I would spend between 4-6 hrs almost daily in the Immigration Office waiting for them to give me an answer, while watching them ignore, work around or avoid me. A planned inconvenience ill concealed, while being reassured not to worry.

There seemed to be an on going battle between the Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Mrs. Fagamalama Fualaau (“Faga”) and Chief Immigration Officer Peseta Dennis Fuimaono; or Mrs. Fualaau and the Immigration Board, to counter or ignore the Attorney General's instructions to process the application. Meanwhile we are caught in the crossfire.

Finally Nov. 17, 2016 the expiration date of Ms. Gumanab’s Immigration ID: That morning the DCI was getting ready to sign off on the renewal application. To our surprise the file was missing from her desk; and after a few hours, I was asked to return the following day while the file could be located.

Nov. 18, 2016 Friday morning: Ms Gumanab paid the fee and was to have her picture ID taken. One hour later when I inquired on the delay, we found out, the photo-tech had vanished from his place of work. By 3:00p.m., the tech was still missing, and I was asked to return the following week.

Nov. 21, 2016 Ms. Gumanab was finally given her new P-5 ID — photo taken.

Nov. 22, 2016, 2:15p.m. before the ink on the ID was dry, I received a call from Mr. Puni from the Immigration Office, and I was instructed to return to the office and to see a Mr. Ken. I asked the purpose for my summons and I was told it’s in regards to Ms. Gumanab. Her file apparently was marked: OVERSTAYER.

I told him she was just given her renewed ID yesterday. However, he further instructed me to come to the office and I was to bring the ID with me.

Not understanding the annoying summons, I felt harassed and my concerns for Ms. Gumanab's safety and welfare were beginning to bother me. Why is this happening? Can Immigration arbitrarily yank out a foreigner or the sponsor and forcibly confiscate the ID? Can they stalk a person at their work place or home?

For my lack of understanding of the Immigration’s mysterious office procedures, can they accuse me now of any fictitious infraction? I felt I really needed an attorney or witness to protect me from being possibly framed or entrapped.

So, on my way to the Immigration Office I called Ms. Gumanab’s attorney, Frederick J. O’Brien, Staff Attorney of American Samoa Legal Aid, to inform him of the summons. I was advised to go straight to the AG, and he would followup. I called the AG’s office and told the AG of the summons from Mr. Puni. I was reassured by the AG that the situation is now in his hands and to return home.

From a concerned inside source, I was told allegedly Mrs. Fualaau advised CIO Peseta against any attempt to take away Ms. Gumanab's issued ID — apparently a warning he chose to ignore. Is this the norm for CIO to harass and hound clients they disapprove and discriminate against? 

The credibility of this office and its unlawful use of their power is frightening.

If this was done to me, imagine how many foreigners are held hostage or terrorized by this type of unprofessional and ungoverned criminal behavior? A community of people to be exploited ad-lib?   

(For clarity of the victim’s situation) a petition was filed against the Immigration Board of American Samoa; Government of American Samoa; Attorney General of American Samoa; and Chief Immigration Officer of American Samoa Peseta Tamasa Dennis Lutu Fuimaono, citing various allegations, and one in particular of sexual harassment and trafficking whereby she refused the Chief Immigration Officer’s sexual advances. (See June 19, 2015 issue for more details.)

The ALJ, Albert Toetagata Mailo, who heard Ms. Gumanab’s petition, granted the motion to stay the Immigration Board’s decision to immediately arrest and deport Miss Gumanab. “The order regarding Merlin Gumanab shall be stayed and she shall remain in American Samoa until this matter is disposed of by law.”

This whole process is mindboggling. As a citizen of American Samoa, I am deeply concerned of the poor dishonest and corrupt practices within this office.

These childish, juvenile and immature fits and tantrums by the leadership in an ASG department are an embarrassment to the government of American Samoa.

Is this the type of amateurish mentoring and training the Chief of Immigration is promoting in his department? The unethical involvement of his staff in the spiteful collusions of corruption and deceit?

Does being a Cabinet member or Board member recuse you from duty, honor and integrity?

 

When Cabinet members deliberately fail to protect the people they are serving, it is a blatant act of disrespect and contempt to the Governor of American Samoa. They are failing the Governor and all his attempts to bring order and trust to his administration, through their abuse of their titles and roles. They are casting questioning shadows, over other competent Cabinet members.

I am saddened for the young employees whose jobs are being threatened, forced and coerced to lie, steal, sabotage and run interference for their superiors, while they hide.

 I saw their struggles to look away from what is happening while they rendered courteous and helpless responses to me. I saw shame in their eyes as I was forced to come in daily to their office for 4 weeks and wait, as the Chief of Immigration would ignore me and the Immigration Board members with stiff necks passed by me.

I appreciate your silent support and courtesy to offer me a chair as I waited the long hours. Know that I understand your predicament and bless you for your helplessness.

I am a victim advocate. My job is to walk and safely guide a victim in need through our established government system. Resorting to lying, stealing, cheating or victim blaming is counter-productive for any victim or my work. I am not a social worker nor an investigator. Nor do I enjoy witnessing the unconcealed inept management of an ASG office.

At the end of the day, I cannot help but wonder, why is there so much effort and fixated attention from the Chief of Immigration and the Immigration Board to deport or get rid of this young powerless Filipino woman? Your guess is as good as mine.

 Ipu Avegalio Lefiti

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