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SAIPAN, Norhern Mariana Islands (August 12, 1999 - Saipan Tribune)---At least 89 asylum-seekers, who were passengers of the fishing vessels intercepted by federal and local authorities, have been sent to mainland U.S. for "possible further processing," according to a court document.

The 89 were among the 537 undocumented aliens from China who were held in the "tent city" on Tinian.

Those detained were crewmen and passengers of five boats, which were intercepted by Coast Guard on separate occasions in April and May of this year.

According to the US Attorney's Office, over 50 representatives from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Bureau of Prisons were sent to Tinian "to guard and interview the detainees, and determine, who, if any, might qualify for possible asylum under the United Nations guidelines."

At least 30 have been charged with alien smuggling and attempted alien smuggling in connection with these aborted trips to Guam, while 19 have been detained as material witnesses for prosecution.

The temporary shelter for the Chinese was shutdown last June 21.

"A majority of its occupants were repatriated to China and some, who had been screened by the INS as potential asylum applicants, were sent to the mainland for possible further processing," the US Attorney's Office stated in the document called "US Opposition to Dismissal Based on Witness Repatriation."

The document was filed in response to a defendant's motion to dismiss indictment.

It was reported that the aliens paid human smugglers between $5,000 and $10,000 to be transported to Guam, where they hoped to avail themselves of political asylum and employment in the underground economy.

"Some of the previous vessels had deposited their human cargo on Guam undetected, while many others were apprehended, so many that the Guam jails and detention facilities were full to overflowing," the US Attorney's Office said.

The U.S. State Department ordered earlier this year that the boat passengers be diverted to Tinian.

There were earlier speculations that the move to send the aliens to a US territory, which controls its own immigration and where asylum is not available, was meant to limit the chances of granting asylum to the citizens of the communist country.


SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 12, 1999 - Saipan Tribune)---The US District Court turned down a motion filed by Chinese crew men seeking dismissal of their indictment on grounds that potential witnesses, who they said could help their defense, have been repatriated to China.

In dismissing the motion yesterday, District Court Judge Alex Munson said the crew men had failed to convince the court that the repatriated aliens could actually provide testimonies favorable to their defense.

At the same time, Munson cited a US Supreme Court jurisprudence supporting the government's decision to send back the undocumented aliens to China for "practical considerations."

"The court found that prompt deportation of alien witnesses who are determined by the government to posses no material evidence relevant to a criminal trial is justified by several practical considerations," Munson said.

The ruling cited, for example, the financial and physical burdens that the government would have to deal with while housing witnesses who are not charged with a crime.

"The cost of running the Tinian tent camp was a major factor in the speed with which it was shut down," said the US Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case.

It was reported earlier that the local government alone had incurred close to $2 million from hosting the aliens.

The motion was originally filed by Xue Jian Hui, through lawyer Eric Smith.

Four of Xue's co-defendants, He Kui, Gao Liang, Shi Peng and He Xiu Jin, later joined in his motion.

The five were among the 10 people charged with alien smuggling for their alleged attempt to bring undocumented aliens into Guam.

Fifty-one aliens from China's Fujian province were found in the fishing vessel when it was intercepted by federal authorities near Guam.

Of the 51, six were detained as material witnesses for the government.

The 51 were sent to Tinian to join the 486 undocumented aliens already held in the island's tent city.

Xue and his co-defendants made their initial appearance at the court the day after the repatriation. They were indicted on July 2.

The defendants claimed the repatriation of witnesses to China was "unfair" because it violated their Sixth Amendment rights to due process and compulsory process to obtain favorable witnesses.

But Munson said the Sixth Amendment "does not guarantee a criminal defendant the right to secure the attendance and testimony of all witnesses only to obtain compulsory process for witness in his favor."

"At best," Munson added, "defendant Xue would have had access to a potential witness who had already given two contradictory statements, one of which was unfavorable to him."

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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