Labor and Immigration Secretary Mark D. Zachares yesterday asked the Immigration and Naturalization Service to take over the four Chinese migrant vessels for immediate disposal.
In a letter sent to Dave K. Johnson, officer-in-charge of INS, Zachares said the continued storage of the ships in Tinian Harbor poses a major threat to the community with the onset of the rainy season.
The labor and immigration chief sent the letter after Saipan Port Manager Antonio B. Cabrera informed him that a request must be sent by the CNMI government to INS in Guam that it does not want to have anything to do with the vessels.
The four vessels which carried close to 500 undocumented Chinese were intercepted by the US Coast Guard on separate occasions near Guam waters and eventually diverted to the island municipality.
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 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 had transferred custody of each of the four boats to the CNMI when they arrived on Tinian island. Likewise, Glover expressed concern over the possible damage of the vessels to the marine environment and to the port.
INS and DOLI have already sent back the last batch of undocumented Chinese who were sheltered temporarily in a “tent city” at the Northfield, a former US military airbase.
Some 129 illegal Chinese boarded a chartered flight back to their homeland, ending temporarily the CNMI administration’s involvement in the US immigration crisis.
Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio has expressed concern on the influx of undocumented Chinese nationals, who are believed to be victims of human smuggling. Although Washington has agreed to shoulder the costs of providing shelter to these illegals, the island government is still awaiting reimbursement which has already ran over half-a-million dollars.