American Samoa grants over 4,000 immigration amnesty
American Samoa has more than 4,000 new lawful residents after immigration amnesty was provided under a bill signed by the Governor.
American Samoa has more than 4,000 new lawful residents after an immigration amnesty was provided under a bill signed by the Governor.
Samoans make up more than half of those who were previously without immigration status who have been pardoned.
The Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop told Koro Vaka'uta the pardons will allow people to continue to contribute to society.
MITZIE JESSOP: We've had issues in the past where we've had a number of people who are out of status here in the territory, so this was one way for the Governor to be able to address people who are out of status in order to get them to have lawful legal status here and then actually contribute legally to the community. Because regardless of what status they're in they're using our infrastructure, their children are in our schools, utilising the medical facilities and so forth but they are out of status so this is one way to be able to bring them into lawful status as well as then have them legally contribute to the community.
KORO VAKA'UTA: So the majority of these amnesties would have been people that have been in the territory for a while?
MJ: So the amnesty was open to two groups of people, because we have a quota system that limits how many legal applicants, people that apply for legal status here in the territory can come in. So we've had a backlog of years where people have been waiting for years to be able to get in from the immigration board to be able to get their immigration status changed so that they could be a resident here in the territory. Part of the amnesty programme included those people who were just in this queue just waiting. The other group of amnesty applicants were people that were, they're called overstayers, where they've overstayed whatever permit or legal authorisation that they had to come into the territory. So we had a date for the amnesty programme when where if you had come in prior to June 30th 2013 then you would qualify to apply for amnesty just based on that date.
KV: "There's been around about 4,000 amnesties given. Is that a high number? Have you had to do this in the past before to sort out that number of people?
MJ: The last time that we did the amnesty programme, it has been a while ago, I want to say, it's been a while, I don't have that information right off the top of my head but yes, it's been at least 10 plus years since the last time the territory initiated an amnesty programme.
KV: What does it mean? You've talked about what it means for the people who were granted these amnesties, what does it mean for the territory itself?
MJ: The number of legal residents here in American Samoa has gone up by 4,000 plus. So now we have more realistic numbers when we are asking the United States for financial help. In the past when we have asked for financial help we've had to go off the numbers we have from our census reports. We, here in the executive branch could definitely feel the weight of people that are living here because we're having to provide the services for these people but yet our numbers don't reflect the services that we're providing. Now we can adjust everything that we do, adjust the services that we provide for people based on this more accurate count.
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