A 15-year-old Chinese girl, who was taken to Saipan in 2013 when she was just 10 years old, could not help but burst into tears yesterday as the government witness in the trial of the woman who is being accused of harboring her as an illegal alien.
“I was 10 when I came here. I only spoke Chinese. Now I speak Chinese and English,” said the girl, who burst into tears while on the witness stand in the U.S. District Court for the NMI.
There was a moment of silence in the courtroom. Division of Youth Services staff, who accompanied the girl, along with some others in the courtroom, were also visibly holding back their tears.
Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona, who is presiding over the retrial of Lili Zhang Tydingco, handed the girl some tissue paper.
The girl, who is not being identified here as part of Saipan Tribune policy not to identify minors, was among the prosecution’s witnesses in the case against Tydingo, who is indicted with one count of harboring an illegal alien.
The girl said she first met Tydingco in China when she (Tydingco) and her husband and their two children went there to pick her up in 2013.
She said her parents wanted her to come to Saipan to study and become a U.S. citizen.
She recalled that it was midnight when she arrived on the island, but that she could not understand the conversation with officers at the Saipan airport as she could not speak English.
The girl said she stayed at the Tydingco couple’s house, where she had a room. At a later time, she said, her uncle, Rongxue Liu, also stayed with her in the room.
She said she studied at Dandan Elementary School and then at San Vicente Elementary School. She is now a 9th grade student at a school on the island.
The girl said she calls Tydingco auntie as well as some DYS staff.
She said she stayed at Tydingco’s house for a year and a few months.
She said it took her a year to learn to speak English.
The girl has a brother, who is a U.S. citizen, having been born on Saipan. He is in China right now.
Homeland Security Investigation Task Force officer Jesse Dubrall, who was also called to the witness stand, stated in his report that the child’s purported uncle, Liu, stated in an interview that he paid Lili Tydingco $7,000 in exchange for helping him enter into a fake marriage and obtain a green card.
According to the superseding indictment, beginning Nov. 5, 2013, until Feb. 19, 2015, Tydingco concealed a child, who entered the CNMI and remained here in violation of the law.
The charge is based upon allegations that Lili Zhang Tydingco and her husband, Francisco Muna Tydingco, brought the minor child to Saipan in order for her to attend public school. Allegedly, the child’s parole period expired while she was still in school.
A federal grand jury previously indicted Lili Tydingco and her husband for allegedly receiving money to harbor two illegal Chinese aliens, including the child they enrolled at a public school.
In June 2016, a federal court jury found Lili Tydingco guilty of one count of harboring an illegal alien and Francisco Tydingco guilty of aiding and abetting the harboring.
In December 2016, Lili Tydingco was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment, while Francisco Tydingco was sentenced to a 21-month imprisonment term. Both were given credit for time served.
The Tydingcos appealed. In 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed their convictions and remanded the case to the District Court for a new trial.
The U.S. government subsequently dropped the case against Francisco Tydingco.
Assistant U.S. attorney Garth Backe is prosecuting the case. Defense counsel is Bruce Berline.