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Dear Editor,

December 15, 2016, an investigation through the CID-DPS, has been launched on allegations made against the governor’s Chief of Staff for sexual harassment of a domestic immigrant caretaker. These allegations have been ongoing since August 2016. 

This exploitative situation also involves the Immigration office; in the attempt to abduct and the force deportation of the victim and her spouse.

Dec 1, 2016, an unexpected visit by 2 Immigration Officers was made to where the victim and family were sheltered in the village of Leone.  The claim was for the victim to accompany them to the Immigration Office to TALK. On the way, the driver stopped to pickup the victims spouse from his workplace and seized his passport.

The driver ended up at the Fagatogo wharf where the boat to Apia was being loaded. According to the victim, that is when they hopelessly realized, they were being deceived and force to be deported. The victim was weeping inconsolably at the wharf; she was so frightened because her 3y/o and 7 y/o sons were unknowingly being left behind, still at the house in Leone.

Fortunately an alert Immigration officer on duty at the wharf halted the deportation tactic. Citing reasons they cannot board. There were no official documentations presented, no tickets or travel documents for the couple. (Smells of human trafficking?)

The Immigration driver and escorts receiving their instructions via cell-phone were told to return the frightened couple back to their shelter in Leone. The traumatized couple was reunited with their children and the hosting family. There was no explanation from the Immigration Officers on why this couple was subject to this frightening and harrowing excursion. The spouse’s passport was confiscated.

There is a lot of underhanded confusion surrounding this victim since she disclosed and exposed the alleged molestations. All they have is the subservient fear of the unknown through ignorance.

What a dilemma to overcome by these domestic immigrant victims and the local people who are trying to help them. What can they do when the implicated offender is the Chief of Staff, who appears to be in collusion with someone in the Immigration Office.

The couple’s immigration status is now compromised. The future of their children born in American Samoa is now destabilized, the spouse’s job threatened and they are now living in fear of being lured or abducted again.

There is also the fear of being threatened to retract through threats and empty promises. In addition, there is the social fear of being ostracized, verbally or physically abused, isolated by their village and the emotional darkness of being separated from their loved ones through illegal deportation.

All these concerns are the very weapons used against any victim seeking justice. Weapons to force victims and their families to KEEP THEIR MOUTHES SHUT while the abuse and maltreatment goes on. Weapons to further shackle victims to sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence and slavery. 

With assistance and support; the victim has formally filed her complaints with the CID-Department of Public Safety. An attorney under the AS Legal Aide Office is now handling her case.

Ipu Avegalio Lefiti

Victim advocate against family violence and human trafficking