After two years in detention Tongan citizen returns home


A Tongan national who has been detained on an immigration hold for more than two years because he couldnt come up with his fare to return home left the island today along with his American Samoan born son.

Toni Foketi, who was serving probation, was detained at the Territorial Correctional Facility because his immigration id had expired and his wife who was his sponsor has been living in the mainland.

Advocacy by a volunteer with the Alliance for Strengthening Families, Brian Loma, made the father and son’s trip home possible.

Loma has been visiting TCF with a new advocacy group called, Window of Hope, and with members of Seventh Day Adventist who have been ministering at the TCF for many years.

Loma has a pending drug possession case  from the time he arrived in the territory last year, and he claims that while he was in custody he experienced and witnessed violations of inmates rights.

He has been donating food ,water and other basic necessities for inmates.

Loma is grateful for the assistance of several individuals and government agencies which made Foketi and his son’s trip to Tonga possible.

Local businessman and member of the SDA Church,  Litani Ahoia and other members of the SDA church, helped fund Foketi’s son’s ticket while Foketi’s family helped pay his airfare to Tonga

Attorney Mark Ude presented Foketi’s case in court.

A court ruled that Foketi’s failure to depart the territory after Immigration denied him a new ID to stay with his American Samoan born son here, was a probation violation.

He faced deportation but was held at the TCF until he could pay for his airfare.

Through Window of Hope, Loma worked with the court, the Attorney General’s Office, Talofa Airways, and the Department of Human and Social Services on Foketi’s case.

He said the court gave approval for Foketi to return home but DHSS did not want the son left behind with no parents on island and they wanted to see both father and son leaving or nobody leaving, in which case Foketi would have to spend 3 more years in incarceration.

This was ruled out as the father and son have been separated for almost 3 years since Foketi was detained at TCF.

The solution therefore was for both father and son to go to Tonga.

Loma told KHJ News that inmates and detainees often need advocates to assist them.

There’s very little training and hardly any programs that are not church related for inmates.

And there’s no job skills programs, he said.

Loma said of Foketi, that this father intended to fix himself and be a good parent to his son, however the system, including the Public Defender’s Office  let them down.