|July 29, 2001
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—NO LEGISLATION PENDING IN CONGRESS TO APPLY FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS TO AMERICAN SAMOA|
| Faleomavaega announced today that
Congressman George Miller, Ranking Democrat on the House Education and
the Workforce Committee, introduced legislation late Thursday night (July
26) to federalize immigration laws in CNMI. Thanks to lengthy discussions
between Faleomavaega and Mr. Miller, American Samoa’s immigration laws
will remain unaffected at this time.
According to Faleomavaega, Congressman Miller intended to introduce a bill on June 29 that included a section entitled the United States—American Samoa Human Dignity Act. The intent of this section was to apply federal immigration laws to American Samoa. The purpose of the section was to prevent another incident like Daewoosa from occurring on U.S. soil.
“The fact of the matter is Congressman Miller and other members of Congress have deep concerns about Daewoosa. Anytime an incident goes national, members of Congress take notice. The negative publicity associated with Daewoosa has placed the Territory under federal scrutiny. In short, Daewoosa has called into question the Territory’s ability to manage local immigration and labor issues,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“As I recently stated, the most serious issue facing the Territorial government is whether or not the Immigration Board can protect the rights of foreign nationals imported to work in the Territory. For example, what procedures are in place to protect foreign nationals when labor and contractual disputes occur?” Congressman Faleomavaega asked. “What policies are in place to cover workers’ repatriation expenses? ”
“I have raised these questions with our local leaders since 1999 when Daewoosa first violated federal law in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. In the face of strict federal laws governing human trafficking and continued public scrutiny, I must repeat that American Samoa simply cannot afford to relax or waive its own immigration policies,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“It is fortunate that at this time American Samoa has not been included as part of the larger CNMI legislation now pending before Congress. For nearly six weeks, George Miller and I have had confidential discussions about this issue. Based on our discussions, Congressman Miller agreed not to include American Samoa in the bill. Congressman Miller informed me of his decision about three weeks ago. On July 26th, Congressman Miller was true to his word. The CNMI legislation is moving forward without American Samoa as a point of discussion.”
“Unfortunately, Saipan and other news agencies jumped the gun and reported inaccurate information. These news agencies based their stories on a Dear Colleague letter that circulated in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Miller circulated a Dear Colleague in late June to gain support for his initiative to have federal immigration and labor laws apply in the US Territories. American Samoa was included as a point of discussion.”
“While other members were only given a general description of Miller’s intent by way of a Dear Colleague, Congressman Miller provided me with an actual draft copy of his intended bill,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “We then began serious discussions about how American Samoa and CNMI are different and why they should not be considered in the same legislation. As a result of those discussions, American Samoa was omitted before the bill went to the floor. What this means is that there is no pending legislation before Congress to apply federal immigration laws to American Samoa.”
“However, Congressman Miller and I are in continued discussions about introducing legislation that would provide for a comprehensive study of local immigration and labor laws. This study would include a review of how immigration and labor laws are applied, practiced and implemented in American Samoa,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“The bottom line is we cannot take Daewoosa lightly. There must be some assurances at the federal level that our Territorial government will protect the rights of foreign nationals by enforcing, not waiving, local immigration law. I must reemphasize to our people and our leaders that our Territory is now under federal scrutiny because the matter of Daewoosa was allowed to escalate to national proportions. Daewoosa is now a serious matter in both the House and Senate,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“As a result of Daewoosa, a bill to apply federal immigration law in American Samoa was also discussed in the Senate. Senator Akaka and I worked together to make sure that American Samoa was not included in the final language of the bill. Fortunately, we were successful,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “I can also say that the Bush administration supports the bill introduced in the Senate to extend the Immigration and Nationality Act to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). I trust that our local leadership and people will view this matter as serious.”
“If the CNMI measure passes in both the House and Senate, the implications are far-reaching,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Further scrutiny of American Samoa will be inevitable. In light of these considerations, I am hopeful that our local legislature will initiate measures to prevent anything like Daewoosa from ever happening again.”
“I want to thank Congressman George Miller for his cooperation and willingness to consider my views and omit American Samoa from his intended legislation to federalize immigration laws in US Territories,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “I am appreciative that American Samoa’s immigration laws are intact for the time being.”
“As a result of our joint efforts, the ultimate resolution of this matter now resides with the Territorial government. If the Territorial government fails to act, I expect to see the matter brought before Congress again. With that said, I am hopeful that our local legislature will take this opportunity to review, address, and resolve all matters pertaining to Daewoosa,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
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