EIGHTY NINE CHINESE SENT HOME FROM TINIAN

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By Benhur C. Saladores

Tinian, Northern Marianas (June 7, 1999 - Saipan Tribune)---Eighty-nine illegal Chinese immigrants were flown home on Friday aboard a chartered Hawaiian Airlines, the second group repatriated by the U.S. federal government from the undocumented aliens staying on Tinian.

Close to 350 Chinese remaining in the "tent villages" set up by the Immigration and Naturalization Service on the island are still awaiting words on their repatriation, which has been expedited after Beijing resumes diplomatic talks with Washington.

The group, who left Friday morning, were brought to Saipan aboard a ferry and were hustled into buses escorted by police on their way to the airport where the Hawaiian Airlines jet was waiting, according to officials.

Their repatriation came exactly a week after the first group of 101 people were sent home on board the chartered Asiana Airlines.

There is no word yet as to when the next repatriation will be, but local leaders express hope that it will be completed soon because of the burden on the island's limited resources.

More than 500 illegal immigrants from Fujian province in China have been provided temporary shelter on Tinian since last April 17 when the first boat, believed to be heading to Guam, was intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and diverted to the Northern Marianas.

The island government has agreed to host these undocumented aliens to hell ease overcrowding on Guam's facilities where at least 2,000 Chinese have been staying while Washington determines whether they are qualified to apply for political asylum.

CNMI is not under the jurisdiction of federal immigration laws and does not have asylum program for refugees.

More than $1 million have already been spent by the local government for its hosting of the Chinese, but federal authorities have pledged to reimburse them the money.

Last week, Labor and Immigration Sec. Mark Zachares lambasted the federal government for its hypocrisy in using the CNMI immigration laws when it transferred the illegal immigrants from Guam to Tinian to make sure that they cannot seek asylum.

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