CHINESE ILLEGALS CONTINUE TO SWIM ASHORE TO GUAM

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By Joseph E. Duenas

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (January 31, 2001 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---After apprehending 14 illegal Chinese aliens in an apartment building, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service is investigating how these people arrived in Guam, said Officer-in-Charge David Johnston.

According to Johnston, a tip led to the men, who were living in Dededo. Johnston believes that the suspect illegal aliens are not part of the same group that was apprehended at Apra Harbor recently.

"We believed they arrived at different times. Preliminary information indicates that they did arrive by boat," Johnston said. "Beyond that, we still have a lot of work to do in the investigation to determine more."

Johnston said the living conditions of the men were clean, and all appeared healthy, which leads officials to believe that the men had arrived in Guam much earlier.

"That was one of the indicators -- they did not appear to me that they were any of the group that just recently came in, because most of them were pretty cut up," Johnston said.

According to Variety news files, four groups of suspected illegal Chinese aliens have been apprehended since October 1999, claiming they were dropped by Taiwanese fishing vessels, and swam to shore.

Three men were recovered clinging to the entrance buoy of the Apra Harbor, and the remains of two other men were found.

All of the men questioned told officials that they were from Fujian province in Mainland China.

Immigration officials believe that individuals on island may be aiding in smuggling operations by acting as local contacts, Johnston said.

"It’s obvious since we found a group of them together, and that they probably came at different times, that there is something there that requires a great deal more investigation," he said.

The public’s help is being sought by reporting any sighting of illegal immigrants.

Again according to Variety news files, more than 30 suspected illegal immigrants have been found swimming to Guam shores from Taiwanese longliner fishing vessels.

In the past, smugglers would put aliens, sometimes hundreds at a time, into rickety, rusted boats, and send them crashing into Guam’s reefs.

According to Johnston, smugglers are now sailing the fishing vessels as close as possible to Guam’s reef line, and then sending groups of 10 or so into the water to swim to shore.

Many of the men in the most recent cases were severely battered and gashed by the reefs before being seized by law enforcement officials.

"Several people may have died from this, but we don’t know how many, because we don’t know how many (illegal Chinese aliens) tried and haven’t made it," said Capt. Scott Glover, Commander of the Marianas Section of the U.S Coast Guard.

Johnston said the Immigration officials are using this knowledge to discourage Chinese nationals from using "snakeheads," or Chinese alien smugglers, to bring them to Guam.

"Our Washington office has sent pictures to China - and they have printed these pictures - to get the message across that if you are coming to Guam this way, you are making the wrong choice," Johnston said.

He was referring to pictures taken of the two drowned men taken by Coast Guard officials.

Both were nude when their bodies were pulled from the water, Johnston said, having their clothes completely shredded by the reef. One was also attacked by sharks, missing portions of his right leg.

"This is the dumbest scenario I’ve ever seen in bringing people into the United States," Johnston said.

Glover said the Coast Guard would be increasing patrols of Guam’s waters for fishing vessels trying to drop aliens overboard. He would not elaborate, however, on how many vessels - other than the two cutters currently assigned to Guam - would be participating, or when the patrols would be taking place.

The community has been very helpful in the efforts to locate and apprehend suspected illegal Chinese aliens, because of the close-knit culture of the people, Johnston said.

"There is a very strong sense of community on this island," he said. "People will call us when they see something unusual. We don’t want anybody to get hurt, and we don’t want people to abuse the hospitality of Guam. This is not the way to come here."

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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