Cook Islands girl detained in LA

Friday May 31, 2019 Written by Published in National
Puna Raela from Nikaupara in Aitutaki. Her photo is published with the permission of her mother. 19053009. Puna Raela from Nikaupara in Aitutaki. Her photo is published with the permission of her mother. 19053009.

Puna Raela, a nine-year-old girl from Aitutaki, was detained at Los Angeles International Airport last week by United States  authorities.

Her parents Ngatuaine and Miimetua Raela of Nikaupara are concerned about the welfare of their daughter, their youngest  of six children.

Raela was travelling to the US from Rarotonga with a close family friend and Aitutaki resident, US citizen Marc Pearce who had previously taken four of her children for a holiday.

Her mother Ngatuaine said Puna was excited to finally be going on a holiday to the US for a month.

With the traumatic incident, gaining social media attention worldwide,  the distressed mother now just wants her daughter back home - “te inangaro ua nei au I taku tamaine kia akaoki ia mai.”

Pearce is a close friend and a neighbour of the Raela family and is a good person to their kids - “e tangata meitaki,” she said.

Sometimes he takes the kids to school and picks them up, always provides a cake for their birthdays if he is on the island, and he is good to the whole family, said Ngatuaine.

She confirmed that Pearce has phoned twice from the US to inform them about their daughter and insists that he does not know where the US authorities are holding her.

Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) Tepaeru Herrmann, responding to an email from Cook Islands News, said they are aware of a Cook Islands national who is currently in the care of United States (US) authorities in Los Angeles following entry into the US on May 26.

“MFAI has prioritised attention to this matter and is continuing to work closely with domestic and international agencies including the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade who are providing consular assistance to the Cook Islands national in California.”

The Ministry are giving priority attention to this matter, that involve a number of complexities which require multi-agency, transnational co-operation.

In an email to Cook Islands News, Aimee Miller who is related to Pearce through marriage, said Pearce is like a second grandfather to this family’s children.

As these children have gotten older he has been bringing them for vacations in the US “to show them there is a huge world beyond their little island”.

Miller said Pearce had all the required documentation showing he had permission from the parents, her passport, notarised documents, everything Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could need to pass them through customs, but CBP stopped them.        


  • Comment Link Ngatupuna Ruahe Sunday, 02 June 2019 13:19 posted by Ngatupuna Ruahe

    I no Marc Pearce he is are veri nice man and like how it been mentioned in the Cook Island News arrival that his are closely friendly member to the Raela family Please Lord help our daughter also bring her back in ur precious name...Amen.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 02 June 2019 12:28 posted by

    Please let my people go, you don't own my children but my God own them,let this innocent child go back to her family.. United States of America.

  • Comment Link Maria MATAITI-ORIKA Sunday, 02 June 2019 09:32 posted by Maria MATAITI-ORIKA

    Aueeee yes this is so SAD, this poor little girl is probably very confused, scared, & has NO IDEA why she's amongst strangers is probably crying everyday. Son Jonz Raela, ( Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade NZ)....PLEASE help your little niece whom I'm definitely SURE is in DIRE NEED for her family. Lets Pray for the Cook Island Government to intervene asap....and for GOD'S INTERVENTION & PROTECTION.

  • Comment Link Teina Saturday, 01 June 2019 12:19 posted by Teina

    Hopefully everything to be sort with baby girl may God continue to bless.

  • Comment Link Florence Putaura Saturday, 01 June 2019 10:36 posted by Florence Putaura

    Father God I pray for your intervention in this situation. Nothing is impossible for you God. I stand in agreement with all your people that are praying for her release from authories & place her back in the care of her parents where she belongs. You are an awesome God and your word never comes back void. Place your divine angels around her, and cover her with the precious Blood of Jesus. Pray for your Peace upon her and her family. Thank you Papa. God bless Anau.

  • Comment Link Maggie Friday, 31 May 2019 23:58 posted by Maggie

    What I want to know is, “What are the parents doing?” If that was my daughter, I would be on the next flight to America and get my daughter out if there. Most importantly, if that was my daughter, I would never allow her at such a young age to go to another country with someone who is not a close family. For me not just any family member will do, but family members I am extremely close to by blood and I’ve known them all my life, plus it has to be someone, I know that, I can trust my children’s life with them, if anything happened to me.

    Honestly I have a lot of friends and many from around the globe. But I would never leave any of my children under the age of 18 years old in their care. They are my friends not my children’s friends. I think her parents were ignorant of the safety and security of their 9-years old daughter. You don’t send her away with an older male friend, no matter how much they know and trust him. Especially to America....a big NO! NO! on my part!

    The USA authorities were in the right to be suspicious for the safety of the girl, because there is so much Human Trafficking of young children all the time. Unfortunately, that young girls experience of USA is a nightmare and pray to God she returns to her family safe and unscathed. This is a good lesson for her parents and they need to be grateful that their friend, took her to America and not a third world country. Otherwise you the parents may not see her again.

  • Comment Link onokura Friday, 31 May 2019 21:39 posted by onokura

    our thoughts and prayers go out the family

  • Comment Link Get help and support through the Cook Island Government to the Embassy. Friday, 31 May 2019 21:09 posted by Get help and support through the Cook Island Government to the Embassy.

    Just get Puna home so she can be safe. Poor girl, excited to see the other side of the world going through this drama. Please parents next time one parent go with your children and friend. Meitakiua the irinaki taeake, Kate ra tatou I kite atu I tetai au tupuanga. Ko teia reira tei tupu. Best to be safe than sorry.

  • Comment Link Ben Grummels Friday, 31 May 2019 19:50 posted by Ben Grummels

    Typical of over-reactive Americans. Yanks kidnapping and stressing out kids even though the American guardian has proper documentation is a breach of international law and common decency.

  • Comment Link Toro Pera Friday, 31 May 2019 18:01 posted by Toro Pera

    Yes the immigration here in the US is very cautious on foreigners entering into the United Staes.
    Especially with the illegal immigrants entering the southern borders it is has stepped up tightening all borders including airports and seaports. since the border wall construction is nearing the final phases of completion security seems to have been tightening up.

    Really feel for young Puna, but all should be taken care of her. If all the paperwork checks out ok, it should be ok for her to continue to stay here. The Lord God bless her and keep her in safety.

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