First the E.U. blacklist and now the U.S. ban? What’s going on?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The United States Department of Homeland Security’s (D.H.S.) decision to remove Samoa from the list of countries whose citizens are eligible for temporary work visas is an unexpected surprise.

Not just because we’ve hardly heard about anyone from these shores taking up the visa class but the reason behind the decision is rather poor and disappointing. 

Folks, we are referring to a story titled “U.S. bars Samoa from seasonal work visas” published on the front page of the Weekend Observer on Saturday. According to an announcement made by the Department, Samoa joins Haiti and Belize as countries removed from the list. 

Which is where it gets interesting. The fact that Samoa’s name has been lumped together with Haiti, a nation that has become the butt of jokes after President Trump apparently referred to it as a “s***hole” country, is shameful.  

And the reasons?

“The decision to remove Haiti, Belize and Samoa from the H-2A & H-2B lists was made as a result of interagency coordination between D.H.S and the Department of State,” D.H.S. Spokesperson Katie Waldman announced.

 “The F.R.N. citation of cases of Haitian nationals having high instances of fraud and abuse as well as a higher likelihood of overstaying their visas was made based on input from the State Department, in the cases of fraud, and from State and D.H.S related to the volume of Haitian nationals who overstay their visas and remain in the country illegally.”

Belize, a central American country has been blocked from the programme amid concerns that it does not meet U.S. standards to protect victims of trafficking, D.H.S. said. 

And for Samoa? Well the D.H.S. said the Samoan government is being punished for not taking back nationals ordered removed from the United States. I’m not sure if you are following but these reasons don’t make sense at all. 

Again to block the people of Haiti because of fraud and other criminal offenses is understandable. But to then associate them with Samoa, simply for a sovereign government standing up for what’s best for its people, is laughable. 

Which is why we find this latest development disappointing. It’s as confusing as President Trump’s behaviour lately.

Now, according to the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy, Antone Greubel, the decision does not affect any other visa classes and Samoans may still travel freely to the United States with valid travel documents. 

“This decision is subject to annual review and may be modified in the future,” he said. 

“We look forward to working with the Government of Samoa to address the concerns that resulted in this decision. We remain strong partners of Samoa and friends of the Samoan people.”

In the Sunday Samoan yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (M.P.M.C.), Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo, issued a response to the decision, assuring that the government is on top of it.

But he said the government is not wavering on the issue of nationals deported from the United States. 

“It is crucial to highlight the fact that most if not all of these Samoans left the islands when they were infants and since have limited or no contacts with their relatives in Samoa,” Agafili said. “The most challenging task is locating of their families in Samoa. They had lived the best of their lives in the U.S. and many do not have family relatives in Samoa anymore.”

What is for hard for the United States to understand about this? 

As an independent country, the government has every right to decide on the best way to protect our people, just like the United States has the right to do what’s best for their people. 

The idea therefore that Samoa is being punished – and associated with other “s***hole” countries for doing this is disturbing to say the least. There has got to be more behind this decision.

Now Agafili goes on to make a very valid point.

“Like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, our ultimate goal is the security and wellbeing of our people and this country,” he said. 

“The events of the recent past involving those who have been returned to Samoa have proven that meticulousness is to be exercised at all times. We will continue to work closely with U.S. authorities to facilitate the pending cases at hand.”

Poor Samoa though! 

First the European Union places us on the tax haven blacklist and now our country has been bundled together by the United States as one of the “s***hole” countries, what’s next?

Have a great week Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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