Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio said Saturday the influx of illegal Chinese immigrants has filled the immigration holding centers in Guam, forcing authorities from the neighboring island to divert to Tinian a boat carrying at least 157 nationals believed to be from mainland China.
This is the second time in one week that a vessel attempting to enter Guam illegally was brought to the island municipality, bringing to over 300 the undocumented aliens being temporarily sheltered by the CNMI government.
Last week, 147 Chinese nationals from Fujian province arrived at the San Jose Harbor on Tinian after their boat was interdicted by the US Coast Guard in the international waters, 80 miles from Guam.
The stream of Chinese immigrants, many of whom are escaping poverty at home, have posed security and economic problems to U.S. authorities.
Tenorio said in an interview before he left for Tinian Saturday afternoon that some 157 Chinese attempted to sneak into Guam few days ago but was blocked by authorities.
According to the governor, Labor and Immigration Secretary Mark Zachares informed him Friday that another vessel would be diverted to Tinian, in yet another strong indication that the “tent city” would be turned into a permanent holding station for Chinese illegals who will be caught in the future.
But Tenorio declined to comment if such plan is acceptable to the Commonwealth, saying “We already made a commitment that we will assist federal agencies.”
Aside from overcrowding at the facilities in Guam, local officials here say diverting these Chinese illegals would ease worries of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service over the growing incursions by illegal immigrants since these aliens would be automatically excluded by the CNMI immigration office.
The first batch of Chinese illegals on Tinian were declared excluded since they were considered undocumented aliens under the Commonwealth immigration laws.
Officials said this new boatload of illegal aliens will be processed by local immigration officers and will be transported to the Northfield, where a “tent city” was constructed, until they are sent back to China.
In a separate interview, Liang Zhenqua, PROC consul to Los Angeles which jurisdiction includes Guam and the Northern Marianas, protested that US authorities have yet to inform his office regarding the arrest of Chinese nationals.
According to Liang, the Chinese consulate is aware of the arrival of these Chinese to Tinian, but would not take action unless there is an official notification from Washington.
“If they (US authorities) think these are Chinese nationals they should inform us,” Liang told a phone interview, as he cited an agreement between Beijing and Washington that says the consulate should be informed within four days if any of the PROC citizen is arrested.
“We should be informed so my government help identify these people and so we can issue travel documents to these people if they are proven to be Chinese nationals. Without the travel document, these people will not be allowed to enter China,” he said.