‘Illegal immigrants risk crippling NMI’

The CNMI faces serious risks if nothing is done to prevent illegal immigration from occurring. That’s according to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres in a letter to the Commonwealth Ports Authority board dated March 12, 2017.

Torres recommended for CPA to review which airline hosts the most number of passengers that attempt to enter the CNMI as tourists with hidden agenda and hold these airlines accountable.

“I recommend that the board undertake a review of all airlines to account for the frequency each airline transports a passenger who attempts to circumvent our laws and develop a policy to terminate flights that continue to transport individuals who attempt to enter the CNMI under the guise of a tourist,” Torres stated in his letter.

According to CPA board member and airport committee chair Barrie Toves, the CNMI exceeds the Los Angeles International Airport when it comes to the number of foreign passengers processed.

In Torres’ letter, he stressed that more must be done on the local front to combat tourists whose intent is to “enter the CNMI to work.”

“I have spoken to members of our private sector and airline operators of this concern to stress the need for them to understand the long-term repercussions if no action is taken, and I would recommend that the [CPA] board similarly review the authority you have to assist in the elimination of this practice at our borders,” wrote Torres.

Toves told Saipan Tribune that there is a risk that the CNMI could lose its parole authority over Chinese nationals, which is a major factor for the economic boom the islands are experiencing.

“There are two reasons Washington, D.C. is concerned about that might be a [factor] in the CNMI losing its parole authority: numerous passengers coming in that are denied entry by [Customs and Border Protection], and passengers coming in for the purpose of giving birth [on U.S. soil],” said Toves.

According to Toves, illegal Chinese workers coming in are denied entry by the CBP.

CBP reports directly to Washington, D.C., which in turn alarms the federal agency about the large number of persons attempting illegal entry here.

The Chinese market comprises about 40 percent of all visitors coming to the CNMI. If the market disappears, the islands will be left relying on only Korean and Japanese visitors.

According to data provided by Torres’ letter, since the CNMI was able to grant parole authority to Chinese visitors, the economy has grown by 16 percent, business revenue has increased by 41 percent, and employment of U.S. citizens has increased by 9 percent.

“If the practice of individuals attempting to enter the CNMI to work illegally continues, we are at risk of crippling the entire economy and reverting to severe economic depression we have experienced only a few short years ago,” wrote Torres.

Next step

According to Toves, the next step for CPA is to revisit their airline-user agreement to see if “there is any [provision] that gives CPA leverage to impose upon the airlines to strictly follow the administration’s directive.”

Since CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security took over the CNMI’s immigration, the CNMI lost the power to impose immigration policies on airlines. Toves said that used to include authorizing airlines to screen tourists in their home country before boarding.

Toves wishes to return such policies.

“We need to understand first that if we have the authority to demand the airlines to properly screen their passengers,” he said.

Toves said that, according to initial meetings between CPA, Torres, and airline representatives, the airlines informed them that they cannot deny passengers from boarding if passengers provide the proper documents for travel.

“We are having an impromptu discussion with our legal counsel to look into the concept that we applied prior to the U.S. government taking over immigration, which has worked very well [in the past].”

“We are going to try and find ways that the CPA and the airlines can work together and establish an action plan for us to impose upon the airlines to make sure that these kind of passengers do not try to enter the CNMI,” said Toves.

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Erwin Encinares | Reporter

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  • Rehmdla

    “Illegal immigrants risk crippling NMI”

    Wow, after all this time, you are just NOW figuring this out? Does the Governor even live on Saipan?

  • pafao

    There are plenty of Chinese over staying tourists working mostly in construction and you can see them in the Garapan area; you also see them driving illegal taxis. The same national many of them smuggled in drugs and sell them throughout the island are also over stayers renting houses/apartments. Easy to catch them but nobody seems to be doing their job.

  • American LoneWolf

    “According to CPA board member and airport committee chair Barrie Toves, the CNMI exceeds the Los Angeles International Airport when it comes to the number of foreign passengers processed.”

    Please site sources for this!

    • captain

      Agreed, even Guam and Hawaii Chinese (and Russian) visitors far exceed Saipan’s, AND they all travel on visa issued at their point of departure.
      This is not counting the very high Japan, Koreans to Guam along with Hawaii’s very large mainland and international visitors count that exceed Guam and NMI’s count that include the Chinese on visa.
      Honolulu has an average of almost 30K visitors a day, this does not include Maui and the Big Island (Hawaii stats)

  • RussMason

    Good luck at the local level, but this seems like an issue for Customs and Border Patrol.

  • Tinalakattne Yantitiyas

    All foreign visitors should be scrutinize and we need to ensure we have all the tools and or understanding processes to remove all “overstaying” foreigners. China is a global, powerful, communist country who would do anything to move against democracy. We must mind ourselves who are we getting into bed with. It is what it is.

  • SaipanStorm

    75% of the babies on island last year were born from two foriegn parents. Long term CW that contributed to the island have had to leave while temporary illegal workers have used been paid under the table. This already has cost us many good workers, overcrowded schools and overtaxed our medical services.
    Blaming the Federal Govt is stupid because they allow us to bring over people without visas to help our economy. Blaming only the airlines is stupid because there are only allowed to ask so many questions and are not expected to conduct medical screening all women and have no way to stop men except if they are known criminals. Basically if the man is not sick, has money in his wallet to spend and a return ticket he is allowed.

    Do we really want the Federal Govt to say- Sorry you want the easy tourism but at best are unable to monitor them once they arrive and at worse are actively supporting birth tourisim and illegal workers which costs taxpayers much more than the CNMI makes. Do we really want the airlines to say- bye bye no profit here. Get to work! Stop letting the greed and laziness of a few hurt many.

  • SaipanStorm

    Although increasing scrutiny at airports may help with the problem of stopping a few more pregnant tourists entering where is the push to send back tourists already here for purposes other than a quick jaunt to our lovely islands? Streams of pregnant women tourists out taking strolls all over the island, renting beds in housing on a rotating basis in groups and filling up waiting rooms at medical clinics. Other tourists are publically working in businesses and large construction sites. We are not a huge place where people can hide easily and do this without notice. Our local government and the Dept of Homeland Security need to start visibally enforcing the law and sending these people back.

  • Bob

    Our 12 mile long island??. Saipan really needs to take control of its immigration, seriously!

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