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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 19) - The Senate is currently reviewing a measure seeking to amend local immigration laws "to restrict sponsorship of foreigners to American Samoans and nationals of the United States."

A request by the Senate to Attorney General Sialega Malaetasi Togafau for additional information includes the number of foreigners being sponsored by local companies that are foreign owned.

"The Senate is addressing a perceived 'kink' in our present immigration laws, which has to do with the authority given to companies," wrote Senate President Lolo M. Moliga and Senate Legal Affairs' Committee chairman Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai in a January 12th letter to Sialega.

"The Senate is sensitive to the economic advantage of providing this privilege to a corporation to sponsor workers that they need, however, the social and economic costs to the Territory appear to outmatch the value of the business incentive," the letter said.

Current law states that persons eligible to act as sponsors are "all American Samoans and nationals of the U.S. and any partnership or corporation authorized to do business in American Samoa."

The Senate measure, introduced and sponsored last year by several senators, including Senate President Lolo Moliga, calls for the deletion of the language allowing companies to sponsor foreigners because some lawmakers believe this is the loophole that's creating an influx of foreigners to the territory.

Lolo and Tuiagamoa say in their letter that the information they are seeking would guide the Senate's "efforts in the formulation of appropriate legislation to mitigate circumstances causing challenges that affect our political stability, economic viability, and social dysfunction."

Requested is an accounting of foreigners sponsored by foreign-owned construction companies such as McConnell Dowell, Fletcher and others. Additionally, the Senate wants a listing of foreigners owning and operating business activities in American Samoa with their nationality, age and gender to be included.

The letter further asks, among other things, an accounting of the total number of foreigners living in American Samoa, by nationality, gender, age, employment, sponsor, domestic service and date of arrival into American Samoa. A summary of all foreigners working for the government and private sector (canneries included), and the number each sector sponsors is also requested.

Concerns were raised in the Senate last year as to the status of bonds provided by sponsors (which are deposited into the general fund) and Sialega is being also requested to provide an accounting of all funds collected on bonds and the current balance as of December 31, 2005.

In addition, the senators want to know the immigration quota for each year since 2000, per nationality as outlined in local laws; number of foreigners deported since 2002, due to immigration law violations or violent crimes; total number of foreigners that entered American Samoa annually since 2000; and the policy on the use of expired U.S. passport to travel to the U.S.

January 20, 2006

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