Monday, June 16, 2014

American Samoa's Amnesty Program for Undocumented Immigrants

American Samoa is the only U.S. jurisdiction today that regulates its own immigration.  That is, it is exempted from the Immigration and Nationality Act.

(As I blogged here on this post in 2009, the only other U.S. territory that had local immigration law powers was the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The CNMI's local immigration powers ended in 2009). 

American Samoa had passed an amnesty program earlier this year (as this article from the Samoa News reported) which allowed its undocumented population to register and "legalize their presence" in territory.  Persons applying for amnesty had to have resided in American Samoa by June 2013 and they need to have registered by March 14, 2014.  In total, there were 2,466 undocumented immigrants who applied for amnesty.  Most of the applicants - 1,643 - were from Samoa (not to be confused with American Samoa). Next were 335 Filipinos.  See this article for additional numbers.

Notably, this was not the first time that American Samoa had passed an amnesty program. In 1998, about 3,000 undocumented immigrants participated in the program.

It should be further noted that the amnesty program does not lead to a path to citizenship. American Samoans are "non-citizen nationals."  One acquires this status by birth. (Indeed, there is an ongoing lawsuit challenging the creation of "non-citizen national" status, we have blogged before herehere, and  here).  Thus, it appears that gaining legal authorization in American Samoa means that one is able to reside and work there lawfully but without the ability to become a permanent member of American Samoan polity. 


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