New Immigration board approved
ASG has a new fully confirmed five-member board, after the nominees were approved yesterday by the Senate, while the House endorsement was made earlier this month.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings two weeks ago for three board members: Rev. Fred Mamea, Sherry Butler and Moetulu’i Sipili Fuiava. Following the hearing committee chairman Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono said the committee would not report the three nominees to the full Senate membership for a vote until the confirmation hearings were held for the other two board members.
Yesterday, nominees Frank Gaisoa and Rev. Aneterea Misioka appeared before the committee for their confirmation hearing followed by a full vote during the Senate session, where all five were confirmed.
Senate enforcement vote has Gaisoa 17-1; Butler 14-4, Misioka 16-2; Moetulu’i 12-6, and Mamea 13-5.
Prior to the start of the hearing, Soliai informed his colleagues that the two nominees were both born in American Samoa and this has been confirmed by the committee through research. Additionally, it was noted the other three nominees were all born in the territory.
The first question raised with the nominees came from Sen. Alo Fa’auuga, who asked if either of the two are sponsors of foreigners living in American Samoa.
Gaisoa responded that he has never personally sponsored an immigrant all his life, but his company, TMO which has a workforce of 50 people includes two individuals sponsored by TMO. He said one of them is a Certified Public Accountant and the other is an engineer — and both positions are hard to fill skills in the territory.
Misioka said there is a young man from Samoa, who has been living at his home for many years to help out with many things and he has sponsored this young man, described as his son. Because of the new appointment, the church minister said he will be looking for another sponsor for this young man.
Soliai agreed to finding another sponsor and suggested Misioka’s wife as the new sponsor. The senator said it does not look good for a board member to sponsor an immigrant when the board members make decisions on immigration matters.
Senators, who spoke during yesterday's confirmation hearing, shared their common concern with the nominees: there are so many overstayers in the territory; there are too many Asians, some of them are taking jobs away from locals; and something needs to be done to make sure that American Samoa’s borders are protected.
Sen. Saole Mila added that overstayers are the worst ones, causing trouble in the territory. He further stated that something needs to be done to monitor them once they are on island and return them after their entry permits expire.
A point acknowledged by senators is that there are two church ministers on this board — Mamea and Misioka. Senators believe this benefits the board and the government having two clergymen there, saying this means the board will make the right decisions by following the law.
There was a call from some committee members for the new board to fully review all provisions of the law, including the provision of corporate sponsors.
Sen. Mauga T. Asuega added that he believes the corporation sponsorships have been abused for a long time and the board must make sure only those qualified under this provision are allowed to work in the territory.
Mauga’s final words for the nominees: Make the right the decision in accordance with the law — and this is the only board that has come before the Senate with two church ministers.
In his closing remarks, Misioka said he fully agrees with senators wanting to make sure that the Immigration Board members are honest in their decision making and this is very important to him, because of the important role the board plays for the government and the territory.
He also shared with senators that he believes some people are using their sponsorship “as a business” collecting money from the foreigners they sponsor and this is not good at all. He said he is thankful to the governor for offering this opportunity for him to serve the people of the territory.
In his closing remarks, Gaisoa told the committee that he has many business obligations to deal with, he accepted the governor’s call to be on the board, as well as to act as chair.
When the governor nominated the new board members last month, he also appointed at the same time Gaisoa as the new chairman.
Samoa News uses the term “Asian” in its stories, as it refers to not only those of Chinese descent, it includes people who also indicate their race(s) as Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese — that is, it refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent.
In the Samoan language, the word, “Asia” (Samoan pronunciation) is also used for the same reference as its English counterpart. However, Samoa News notes that often when denoting people of Asian descent, Fono representatives and senators generally use the words “Saina” — which is ethic specific, meaning “Chinese” — but is, in this case, used as a general substitute for the word, “Asia”.