Deported convicts to arrive next week

By Joyetter Feagaimaali'i 22 February 2021, 10:00AM

Twelve Samoan nationals who have been deported as part of their sentence for criminal convictions in American Samoa will return home on March 4.

The territory’s Attorney General Fainu’ulelei Ala’ilima Utu and the Acting Commissioner of Public Safety Fo’ifua Fo’ifua gave details of the deportation of the Samoan nationals before a House of Representative hearing in Pago Pago last week, reports Talanei news.

The hearing was called in response to an inquiry by Representative Avagafono Vaimaga Maiava, a former deputy commissioner of public safety, on what the territory’s government is doing to help return Samoan inmates who’ve completed their sentences and are facing deportation orders.

Avagafono said he was concerned that the government may be liable if something happened to the mates while they were still in custody at the Territorial Correctional Facility.

A total of 12 inmates face deportation with Fainu’ulelei revealing that they had initially planned to put the first group on Lady Naomi to sail to Samoa. 

However, Talanei news reported that their travel was deferred after the Samoa Government requested a postponement, so the deportees’ families in Samoa could be contacted to await their arrival, consequently 4 March 2021 being their new date of travel.

A Representative in the territory’s Legislature, Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi, says sending the convicted Samoans home should not have happened if the judges did not add deportation to the courts’ sentences.

He pointed out that the laws spell out sentences for each crime and deportation is not included and he believes judges do not have authority to include punishment that are not backed up by the law. 

But the Attorney General Fainu’ulelei explained that it’s up to the defense attorneys to make it known to the judges that the defendants have wives and children who were born in American Samoa and try to convince the courts not to deport them.

He also said that the judges have the authority to impose deportation and this is usual for felony convictions.

The Acting Commissioner Fo’ifua says defense attorneys should explain the personal circumstances of defendants to the judges, reports Talanei news and added that a female inmate on the deportation list recently lost her son who was electrocuted.

Representative Avagafono, who had requested the hearing, said he was pleased to hear that the territory’s government is helping the inmates who’ve completed their sentences return to Samoa.

Earlier this month, there were five deportees from the U.S. with the Police Minister Tialavea Tionisio Hunt confirming that they were escorted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) officers on the flight to Samoa.

The deportees were greeted by quarantine officials in personal protective equipment before they were taken in for their compulsory 21 days quarantine.

“They are free men and they will leave after the required quarantine time,” Tialavea said last month.

The Minister said the deportees had already served their time and should be given a chance to return to normal lives. 

“Members of the public should not be alarmed by the men who have been sent back from the United States of America,” he said. 

“After their quarantine time, they will be transferred to the Samoa Returnees Charitable Trust programme.”

Last month the Samoa Government approved a year-long request from the U.S. Government to deport Samoan citizens guilty of criminal offences committed on American soil ranging from fatal traffic offences to domestic violence. The plane was chartered and paid for by the American Government. 

By Joyetter Feagaimaali'i 22 February 2021, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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