Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has written to Governor Togiola to express his serious concerns about ASG’s efforts to require members of the U.S. Armed Forces to present a valid passport before they can enter American Samoa and be reunited with their families.
In a letter to Governor Togiola dated April 14, 2005 and copied to the Lieutenant Governor and the Fono, Congressman Faleomavaega said, “I have received numerous calls and complaints about ASG’s decision to require active duty military members to present a valid passport before entering American Samoa. In response to these complaints, my office has researched this matter and, while some have suggested this is a necessary security measure or that the federal government has mandated that all military personnel must possess U.S. passports in order to travel, I would like to submit that both ideas are misguided and false.”
“In fact,” the Congressman continued, “ASG’s passport requirement for members serving in the U.S. Armed Forces is contrary to local law, federal policy and international agreements, and I am hopeful that upon receipt of this information you will personally intervene and do right by our soldiers.”
Section (3), Title 41.0502 of the American Samoa Annotated Code (attached) states:
All permanent residents of American Samoa, except members of the armed forces, must present proof of residence at the time of entry in such forms and in such manner as prescribed by the Board. Permanent residents who are members of the U.S. armed forces must have valid military identification documents with a certification by the military authority concerned that American Samoa is the home of resident.
“This means that a military I.D. and documentation showing that American Samoa is the home of resident is all that is required by local law for our soldiers to re-enter the Territory,” Faleomavaega said. “Federal policy is also clear on this matter. Active duty military members seeking to re-enter the United States after serving abroad only have to present their military I.D. and orders to gain entry at any port in the United States.”
“Additionally, the United States has status-of-force agreements in place with our allies and, as a result, 49 foreign countries allow our U.S. service men and women entry with a military I.D. and orders. These foreign nations do not require U.S. service members to also have a passport or visa. Why then should American Samoa require our military men and women to present a passport? Quite frankly, it is an insult to our troops for American Samoa to make our very own soldiers provide additional documentation which is not required by the federal government or 49 foreign nations.”
“American Samoa can and must do better,” Faleomavaega said. “A military I.D. is a federal identification card and, by local law, federal policy, and international agreement, it is a valid form of documentation for entry to the U.S., to U.S. Territories, and to 49 foreign nations when presented with military orders. This said, it is not in the best interest of our Territory for ASG to make up rules that go beyond what local law, federal policy, and international agreements require.”
“It is not fair for ASG to require members of the U.S. Armed Forces to present additional documentation, like a U.S. passport, before they can enter American Samoa and be reunited with their families. This is poor public policy and I do not accept that this additional requirement is a necessary security measure.”
“Our soldiers bleed and die so that each of us and future generations may live in peace. In turn, I believe we must honor their sacrifice and, for ASG, this means adhering to local law, federal policy and international agreements which are in place to show appreciation for the sacrifices U.S. troops are making to protect freedom and democracy around the world. If, at a later date, the U.S. State Department or the Department of Homeland Security requires members of the U.S. Armed Forces to also present passports for entry to the U.S., then ASG may wish to revisit this issue. Until then, I am hopeful that Governor Togiola will personally intervene and set this matter straight,” the Congressman concluded.