US Armed Forces prodded to beef up security at “tent city” House resolution also seeks more aid for illegal Chinese immigrants

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Posted on May 03 1999

Saying the Commonwealth could not afford the costs associated with hosting hundreds of illegal Chinese immigrants, local legislators warned Washington against its inability to provide safety and basic necessities to these people while they await their fate at a “tent city” on Tinian.

In a resolution adopted on Friday, the House of Representatives prodded US Armed Forces to beef up its manpower deployed on the island to ensure security for both the detained foreigners and the Tinian residents who have raised concern over their presence.

Close to 500 undocumented immigrants are now staying at a temporary shelter set up by American troops at the Northfield, a former US military airbase. They were arrested by the Coast Guard when they intercepted their boats in international waters believed to be on their way to Guam.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Frank Cepeda, specifically sought US assistance for food, clothing and shelter provisions which the CNMI government could not provide due to lack of funds.

In response to the problem, private sector representatives, such as the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Associations, have collected donations, like shirts, shoes and pants, to help provide for their needs.

However, the House expressed concern also that the Tinian situation has strained government services as CNMI personnel, including police and public health staff, have to be assign in the area to deal with these illegal immigrants.

“(S)ince the initial entry of the people into Tinian, CNMI government employees from different departments have been providing the major portion of the manpower need for security, which takes away essential manpower needs… for its own operations and public services,” the resolution said.

While island leaders have express willingness to ease the problems brought about by the illegal immigration to nearby Guam, the streams of undocumented Chinese nationals, believed to be victims of human smuggling, has worried the CNMI.

The US Immigration and Naturalization Service has yet to come up with plans on whether these people will be repatriated or how long they will stay on Tinian, although they have assured additional deployment of personnel to beef up security. (Benhur C. Saladores)

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