HOSTING ILLEGAL MIGRANTS COSTS CNMI US$ 500,000

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By Cookie B. Micaller

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (June 15, 1999 - Saipan Tribune)---The CNMI government spent an estimated half million dollars in April and May to provide security and temporary shelter for hundreds of undocumented Chinese nationals held on Tinian.

According to figures prepared by the Department of Finance, as of the end of May government expenditures for the operation reached $501,000, the bulk of which was spent for personnel costs.

Estimates indicate that salaries and overtime payments for employees of the Customs Division, Departments of Public Safety and Labor and Immigration, Commonwealth Health Center and the Emergency Management Office totaled $392,000.

The number of government employees deployed to the island municipality varied, but at one time peaked at 70.

The rest of the balance was used to pay for meals, accommodation of personnel, supplies and equipment rentals.

The expenses incurred by the Commonwealth will be submitted to the federal government for reimbursement, especially now that the CNMI is in a tight financial condition.

Close to 300 illegal Chinese immigrants remain housed in a "tent city" in Northfield, a former U.S. base on Tinian, and there is no word yet from the Immigration and Naturalization Service when the next repatriation will take place.

Recently, two groups of undocumented Chinese were flown out of the Northern Marianas on board chartered planes, more than a month after fishing vessels, believed to be headed for Guam, were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and diverted to Tinian.

The local government, which is battling its own immigration problems, agreed to accommodate temporarily the illegal immigrants on condition that it would be reimbursed for the expenses it may incur for serving as host.

The White House requested the CNMI, which controls its own immigration, to accept the Chinese nationals because of overcrowding in Guam.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

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