ICE targets illegal workers

2 arrested for allegedly entering as tourists, but worked illegally at construction sites

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is cracking down on illegal construction workers who enter the CNMI as tourists.

ICE arrested last week two overstaying aliens after looking into reports of many illegal construction workers, most of them Chinese, in many areas on Saipan.

Shubiao Niu and Youcai Li were stopped and arrested along the road near Moonlight Shopping along Beach Road in Chalan Kanoa Wednesday morning.

On Friday, Niu and Li were taken to the U.S. District Court for the NMI for a bail hearing, with ICE charging them with improper entry by alien-misrepresentation and concealment of facts.

Chinese nationals, like Russian tourists, enter the CNMI under the conditional parole authority of Customs and Border Protection, which means they don’t need to obtain a tourist visa prior to entering the CNMI.

According to ICE special agent Michael D. Lansangan, Niu and Li managed to enter the CNMI by lying to Customs and Border Protection officers that they are tourists, but they actually intended to live and find jobs on the island.

Lansangan said he and other Homeland Security Investigations personnel regularly receive tips and reports from the community about several illegal construction workers on Saipan, particularly in Chalan Kanoa, Susupe, and San Antonio.

He said the tips generally indicate that these workers are typically dressed in construction-type clothing and/or possess construction-related equipment, and can usually be seen in the early morning, waiting to be picked up by the side of the road.

In addition to these reports, Lansangan said he has done several investigations into illegally employed foreign nationals and many of them are working illegally in the CNMI as construction workers.

Lansangan said that, based on his surveillance, the illegal construction workers are being picked up by vehicles with other construction workers and equipment already loaded in them.

He said the vehicles often lack markings or logos, which would otherwise identify the company.

Lansangan said that in his interviews with these foreign construction workers, many of them were identified to be from China.

He said these workers admitted that they came to the CNMI as tourists under the CNMI-only conditional parole program, but fully intended to reside and work in the CNMI.

Many of these workers further allegedly admitted to having lied to CBP officers at the time of entry about their true intentions of coming to the CNMI.

Lansangan said that HSI Saipan personnel encountered Niu and Li in the Chalan Kanoa area last Wednesday. Liu and Li were later confirmed to be parole overstayers.

Liu and Li allegedly admitted to entering the CNMI as tourists and working illegally without authorization.

Lansangan said he and other HSI personnel saw Liu and Li sitting by the roadside below an apartment building next to Moonlight Shopping on Beach Road.

Liu and Li were seen holding hard hats, plastic bags, and bottled water. They were wearing clothing consistent with what construction workers would normally wear.

After Liu and Li admitted that they did not have valid U.S. immigration status, they were brought to the HSI Office, where Lansangan learned from records that Niu and Li entered Saipan as tourists under the CNMI-only conditional parole program on Jan. 4, 2016, and March 18, 2018, respectively.

Niu and Li were authorized to remain in the CNMI only until Feb. 3, 2016, and March 28, 2018, respectively.

During their interview, Niu and Li allegedly stated that they worked in construction in China prior to coming to Saipan.

Niu told authorities that he met a certain Zhao in China, who told him about better work opportunities on Saipan.

Li heard that it was easy to come to Saipan and find work here.

Niu allegedly paid Zhao 30,000 renminbe (about 4,696.01 U.S. dollars) for arranging his travel and hotel to Saipan. At Zhao’s instruction, Niu lied to an immigration officer that he came to travel and for tourism.

Since arriving on Saipan, Niu has worked for several different employers despite a lack of authorization to work here.

Niu said that when HSI approached him last Wednesday, he was waiting for his current employer to pick him up and take him to the jobsite.

Li, on the other hand, allegedly paid a tour company in China a total of 60,000 RMB (approximately $8,955). The company arranged for Li to come to Saipan as a tourist on a tour package. He lied to an immigration officer that his intent to come to Saipan was for “tourism.”

Li stated that he lost his baggage, wallet, and passport several days after arriving on Saipan.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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