CNMI seeks US help to dispose vessels of illegal immigrants

Posted on May 24 1999

Commonwealth Ports Authority Executive Director Carlos H. Salas has asked the US Marshals in Guam to help the CNMI get rid of the four ships used by illegal Chinese immigrants because of the danger the vessels pose to the island-municipality of Tinian in the coming typhoon season.

During Friday’s board meeting, Salas said he does not see any reason why the US Marshall will not be able to assist the Commonwealth since it has helped Guam officials in disposing of the ships used by Chinese in entering Guam. The four boatloads of undocumented Chinese were intercepted by the US Coast Guard near the neighboring island’s waters and eventually diverted to Tinian.

Saipan seaport general manager Antonio B. Cabrera has earlier sent a letter to the US Coast Guard asking for advise on what to do with the four ships currently docked at the San Jose harbor on Tinian.

With the typhoon season fast approaching, Cabrera said the vessels may affect Tinian’s livelihood if these suddenly break loose from the berthing area and make the port of Tinian impassable.

However, US Coast Guard Capt. Scott J. Glover, said the US Immigration and Naturalization Service has transferred custody of each of the four boats to the CNMI when they arrived on Tinian island. Likewise, Glover expressed concern on the possible damage of the vessels to the marine environment and to the port.

Cabrera said the ports authority would have difficulty selling the four vessels because the boats do not have proper documentation that would allow prospective owners to use these for commercial operations. Even a company on Saipan has declined to take the vessels, cut them and salvage the scraps because of its very little value.

There are almost 500 Chinese nationals temporarily sheltered in the “tent city” hastily set up by American troops at the Northfield, a former US military airbase.

Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio has expressed concern on the influx of undocumented Chinese nationals, believed to be victims of human smuggling. The CNMI’s security concern was brought about by the lack of assurance from representatives of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service as to when repatriation will begin and how long will the island government play host to the Chinese nationals.

Due to the fair weather condition, officials are expecting more Chinese nationals, seeking for better jobs and greener pastures, to enter Guam illegally.

Describing the influx of illegal immigrants in crisis proportion, the neighboring island has sought the intervention of Washington to help them cope with the situation.

Incursions by several boats in the past weeks have crowded Hagatna’s immigration detention centers, which are now home to over 500 Chinese illegals.

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