BABAUTA SEEKS ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO REIMBURSE CNMI FOR HOSTING CHINESE ALIENS

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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 19, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---CNMI's Resident Representative to Washington, Juan N. Babauta, said yesterday that he has asked the U.S. Congress to immediately reimburse the Northern Marianas $600,000 for expenses it incurred in hosting more than 500 illegal Chinese immigrants on the island-municipality of Tinian.

Since it will take Congress some time to appropriate the amount, Babauta asked if it was possible to pay back the CNMI in other ways, because the island government does not have enough resources to spend taking care of more illegal aliens.

Nearly two months after the last group of undocumented Chinese were sent home, a boat carrying 151 illegal Chinese immigrants arrived on Tinian last Monday morning.

Babauta's appeal to the U.S. Congress was in support of an earlier letter sent by Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio to Washington, seeking payment for the costs of hosting the undocumented aliens.

President Clinton has asked Congress to include in the FY 2000 spending package reimbursements for both the CNMI and Guam.

The reimbursements include expenses for the meals of Chinese nationals as well as overtime pay for local personnel stationed at the two temporary camps set up by the federal authorities on Tinian.

During the previous months, to cover the expenses on Tinian, officials had to use deportation funds being maintained by the Department of Labor and Immigration for nonresident workers here.

The earlier boat loads of Chinese were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard near Guam waters but were diverted to Tinian as Hagåtña's immigration detention centers are now crowded with illegal immigrants.

The Governor has expressed concern over the influx of undocumented Chinese nationals, who are believed to be victims of human smuggling.

The CNMI's security concern was brought about by the lack of assurance from representatives from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service as to when repatriation will begin and how long the island government will host the illegal aliens.

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

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