Samoa's Link to Alleged Human Trafficking Prostitution Ring

©W.L. Doromal 2010
January 16, 2010

Anyone who is familiar with the human trafficking in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) may think that this story sounds familiar. American Samoa's Immigration Offices in Utulei Village and Pago Pago Airport were raided by 20 U.S. law enforcement officials who carted away boxes of documents and files. The local immigration agency has allegedly been helping to bring in hundred of illegal aliens through neighboring Samoa in a human trafficking scheme that involves victims from China, Korea, and the Philippines.

The New Zealand Herald reports:
It's possible that hundreds of victims were brought to American Samoa from May to 15 December, Cendrowski said.

Many were women apparently being used by a prostitution ring that is plaguing the South Pacific, while the men found work in warehouses, restaurants and stores, he said.

One man from China who is now under protective care as a human trafficking victim told investigators he paid $20,000 (NZ$27,000) to get to American Samoa via Samoa, Cendrowski said.

Upon arrival in Pago Pago, the victim didn't undergo immigration clearance.

Instead, immigration officers waived him through and he was taken to the safe house and given a local immigration card, making him a legal resident of the territory, Cendrowski said in court documents.

The man also told officials he didn't take any tests or fill out any paperwork to obtain the documents provided to him.
In the same way illegal recruiters lured innocent foreigners to the CNMI, these recruiters were said to have lured hundreds of innocent victims from Asia "to earn a better living." Once in the islands they were told that additional fees for housing, the airfare, IDs, and driver's licenses would be deducted from their pay. Sound familiar?

Human traffickers need to serve life sentences for their crimes.

As a result of the raid on the American Samoan Immigration Offices a bill has been introduced in both the American Samoan Senate and House that would make human trafficking and indentured servitude felony crimes in American Samoa. Samoan News reports:
For several years now, local law enforcement officials, supported by the U.S. Justice Department, have been calling for American Samoa to enact a human trafficking law, due to the lack of one in the territory. The proposed Legislation is titled “Anti-Human Trafficking and Involuntary Servitude."

The first major human trafficking case that surfaced in the territory, and made international headlines, was the Daewoosa Samoa garment factory in 2001. It was the first time many local residents became aware of such a crime. The Daewoosa Samoa case was prosecuted under federal law at the federal court in Honolulu.
Meanwhile, the CNMI government is working to delete its human trafficking law. A comment on DHS rules submitted by Howard Willens, the governor's special counsel stated, "These comments will define the changes to Commonwealth law to be made to accommodate P.L. 110‐229, Section 702(a), Section 6(f)."

Unbelievably, in that document, the administration proposes to delete human trafficking legislation. While other states and countries are strengthening their human trafficking laws, the CNMI is deleting them! Here is what Willens wrote:
Section 7. Amendment of Title 6. Title 6 is amended as follows:
A. Division 1 (Crimes Against the Person), Part 1 (Crimes Against the Person), Chapter 5 (Human Trafficking and Related Offenses), Article 1 (Anti-Trafficking Act), §1508 (Immigration Status) is deleted.
UPDATE: A commenter pointed out that the law is not being deleted, BUT the immigration status within the law. I read this to mean all the sections that were listed were to be deleted. Because the law is not posted online, we cannot reference it. If anyone has a copy please share it!

The U.S. immigration and labor laws should apply to all U.S. territories including American Samoa. Currently American Samoa controls its immigration. It's unlikely that they will maintain local control for long if human trafficking and indentured servitude continue.

Help for Haiti: Learn What You Can Do


Anonymous said...

Way to go Howie!

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would we delete our human trafficking laws? Did Howard Willens explain that? What is he thinking? Does the administration want MORE human trafficking in the CNMI? What's wrong with these people? Maybe they're all profiting from human trafficking, Willens included.

Anonymous said...

Willens we demand an explanation. WHY?

Anonymous said...

We need the US Ambassador at Large, Lou Debaca, out here immediately to conduct hearings on all of this. President Obama you're are only hope!!

Humanitarian said...

Wendy, do you read what you post?! I do commend you very much for providing original source documents or quoting original language, so we can see, understand, and decide for ourselves.

The comment of Howard Penney Willens does not say the CNMI will repeal its human trafficking act, just section 1508 on immigration status.

Now I admit I cannot be sure because the CNMI is the only U.S. state/territory without its codified statutes online and I don't have the public laws immediately available. But repealing only a single section called “Immigration Status” out of an entire law seems most likely merely to reflect the fact that the CNMI no longer controls immigration statuses. If there is more to it than that, and this is the only operative criminalization provision in the entire Human Trafficking Act, you should have pointed that out. Otherwise, you have again jumped to conclusions. Big time.

I don't work for Fitial, and yes, I am humanitarian in my motivation. I presume you are acting out of good intentions (just as I do the same for the Governor unless proven otherwise) or I wouldn't even waste my time commenting here.

You really need to take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror of your heart and conscience about jumping to conclusions and rash judgment. I'm posting from a phone so won't provide a link, but if you'd Google “Catholic Catechism” and “rash judgment” you would find the relevant paragraph of the CCC that is very on point to the current progressive activist climate in the CNMI.

I know you want to be “out front” and effect social change -- but when the “facts” promulgated to the CNMI public (and now the world) include false speculation or jumped-to conclusions, you really need to question whether you are doing more harm than good to the CNMI community and those you want to help.

All the available info about Ms. Qingmei Cheng (who was never “released” despite Fitial's erroneous use of that term in a statement or affidavit -- she was always in DoC custody) comes from the short two-page motion by AUSA O'Malley that you helpfully posted. But he jumps to very few or no conclusions, instead seeking more information.

I respectfully submit that is what you should do, instead of imputing motives and actions that cannot possibly be known.

It may turn out that some of the suppositions of your lynch mob turn out to be correct, but that is why we have court hearings. At that point, instead of the sensationalistic “scandal” synopsis you have disseminated worldwide, we would have a more fact-based account.

Making important public decisions based on rank speculation is never good for society. It's not how courts should function, and you shouldn't be urging voters to act on that basis, either.

If you want to do something more constructive, how about pointing out to your same national and international audience that we're the only American state or territory without its codified laws online, and trying to get that changed with the same vehemence that your bitter anti-Fitialites are trying to oppose whatever he does.

Having our laws available to the public would tend to reduce, rather than increase, wrongful jumping to conclusions about our laws.

And thank you for keeping us informed about human traffickers in American Samoa.

The USDOJ needs our support, not interference.

Today, Sunday, January 17, 2010 is the formal celebration (the actual date was the 13th) of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa and of the episopal ordination of Bishop Tomas A. Camacho, who has strongly supported human trafficking victims in the CNMI. Soon the Pope will be announcing his replacement.

Please pray for the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa and Bishop Tomas.

Wendy said...


Thank you for pointing out concerns about the deletion in the human trafficking act. As you pointed out the laws are not online. I am sure that you read the section of the human trafficking law that your refer to before you posted here, so please post the part that is being deleted so we can all see it. Then I will absolutely be more than happy to correct any inaccuracies.

I respectfully disagree with you on your opinion of whether or not Ms. Cheng 's "release" was appropriate. I stand by my opinions that are not based on "rank speculation."

As an attorney, you may want to be the one to lobby to get the laws on line. I support that also, but I am actually more concerned with the perpetuation of a broken and dysfunctional system and a corrupt administration that is trying to maintain it to the detriment of the foreign contract workers.

Enjoy your celebration today. Bishop Camacho has indeed worked to end human trafficking!

Anonymous said...

Wendy, I believe you were correct in your initial take. If just the Immigration Status section was to be deleted it would have been phrased to say §1508 (Immigration Status) is deleted from ...

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:23

I think the Humanitarian is correct. He is an attorney.

I went through this when I posted that the Open Government Act initiative passed and people told me it didn't so I changed the post. In the end, I had counted correctly and it did pass.

I am going to go by what this attorney says unless it is corrected again!

Saipan Writer said...

All the comments on this story are so focused on the CNMI, they miss the real significance of this.

I believe that there is an organized crime syndicate operating throughout the Pacific; and I think the CNMI has been used for this purpose, for prostitution, money laundering, trafficking of humans and drugs. And all of that has been tied, in some important way, to our control of immigration.

Now that we have lost local control of immigration, it appears that the only other US territory with its own control of immigration is the logical place to move the operation. (Not to say that American Samoa wasn't already being used, but perhaps not to the extent that the CNMI was.)

The crime syndicate has played on our emotions, our feelings of pride and desire for "self-government." And we have seen an increase in drug use, even in our own community (and yes it has fluctuated, but is definitely on the upswing during the "better times"). We have seen human trafficking-unremitting and most frequently tied to sleazy night clubs. We have seen arrests for attempts to illegally enter Guam (and not just the most recent). We've seen the Tinian casino continue to operate, but where are the funds coming from because it really doesn't have much business.

I believe its' all about crime, and that is not a good basis for any economy or community.

P.S. I'll look at the proposals again, but my initial (albeit cursory) review after you first published about this was that you were right, that the proposal is for the human trafficking provisions to be repealed as part of the larger bill. Will check again, though.

Anonymous said...

As long as we have Human Trafficking we need to stay the course until each and every violator is prosecuted and punished. Whether it is in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Saipan, or Samoa-- the same problem requires the same vigilance. If those in American Samoa are part of the problem, then prosecution will be part of the solution.

And I am sure we have Samoan priests and Bishops also advocating for the rights of workers.

Anonymous said...

WD, you are far too polite to the Humanitarian (not) who is Greg Baka. Does he read what he posts? He is self-righteous and totally blinded by his loyalty to the governor. He has a lot of nerve to tell you to take a look at yourself! Keep telling the truth and don't let Baka try to shut you up! That is what he is attempting to do. Read all the comments he has written over the last few days and you'll see that it is him that is way out of line defending Fitial's guilty act and attacking all those who are on the side of the law. It's actually scary.

I also think your first interpretation of the law was probably correct. For a layman you are extremely accurate in interpreting legal cases.

Anonymous said...

The American Samoa raid brings up the issue about an INDEPENDANT prosecutor. The CNMI Attorney General's office is controlled by the Governor and the AG serves at his pleasure. Any wrongdoings by the government will not be prosecuted by the Attorney General's Office. In American Samoa, recently they opened an independant prosecutor's office and the raid on the local immigration office was the result.

Captain said...

Wendy, JFYI, the other Samoa is "Western Samoa" It is an independent nation with its own currency (Tala) that fluctuates, much like the Phil Peso.
It originally was a German possession and then went to the British and the Americans took American Samoa.
This came about when there was almost a war and a Typhoon came in and washed the German battleships up on the beach.
The American and British were the only ones left with Battleships.
The Americans wanted the deep draft harbor at PagoPago and the British wanted the resources from the island in Western Samoa.

The human smuggling in A. Samoa has been going on for as long as I can remember. In the early days it was only the W. Samoa people that was "smuggled" in and did the work for the A. Samoa people. not much unlike the current contract workers in the CNMI.
Many of the "workers" are paid small wages and given some wood and other materials and build "shacks" in the back area of the families they are working for.
The majority of the "Cannery" workers are from Western Samoa.
You now have a Garmant industry in A. Samoa with the same problems as was here.

The A. Samoa immigration (along with the rest of the Gov. employees and elected are into many illegal issue and corruption.

In W.Samoa the Govt is run by a parliamentary style Govt. All of the members are Chiefs and the corruption is open and blatant. (much like the Phil)
"Chief" titles are easily purchased for outsiders.

W. Samoa depends on world "aid" and New Zealand and Australia is a heavy supporter and also investments withing the country.
That country has many natural resources.
THe people are very friendly and there are many bars and prostitutes.
It is a weekend "playground for the many in A. Samoa. (80 miles from airport to Airport) Only about 48 miles from shore to shore.

Wendy said...

Thank you Captain for sharing all of your knowledge!

Anonymous said...

Captain, oh my captian. These past years I always had great respect for you and your comments. Thought you were well travelled (not well educated and that is not a bad thing) had great insight on the Pacific Islands. Now after your last post I realize you have been running a fraud on us. Your comments are almost word for word out of the Lonely Planet travel books by Stanley. You have just "outed" yourself. Sheesh.. now I have to look for a new hero.

Anonymous said...

Just because someone is an attorney does not make them 'correct' or even intelligent. Two words: Joseph Arriola.

Anonymous said...

A constitutional amendment for an independent, elected CNMI Attorney General was supported by none of the four 2009 candidates for governor nor by the legislature.

The only route now would seem to be an initiative. It should also provide for the AG to control the OAG budget and have a salary equal to the Public Auditor or a Superior Court Associate Judge. At current pay levels it's no wonder so few stay at the OAG for very long. You get what you pay for.

captain said...

noni 9:28 Sorry, never heard of those books, I have lived, worked and done business on those islands Among others) and also the Manua Islands about 78 miles from Tutuwila (built the bridge between Ofu and Olosenga on the Manua Islands in the late 70's)

We built the New Govt building in the 80's In Pago Pago) also.

Dealt with the Canneries on their Power generation systems, and also the Samoan Power Authority.

Same type of dealings with W. Samoa especially on the Island of Savaii.
Anyway believe what you want, don't care.I speak from personal experience on my comments. Have a nice day.