ILLEGAL ENTRY INTO GUAM FOILED: MEN CAUGHT AFTER SWIM TO SHORE FROM TAIWAN

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FISHING BOAT

By Theresa Merto

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (May 24, 2002 - Pacific Daily News)---Nine suspected illegal immigrants are in custody after they jumped off a fishing vessel yesterday and into the waters a few miles from Guam.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Lee Putnam said as a result of immigrants' attempts to illegally enter Guam, the Coast Guard continues to patrol the island's coastline, but with limited resources.

"We are very thin (but) we are tasked very heavily," Putnam said. The Coast Guard remains in an increased security mode put in place in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. mainland.

"We are still continuing to do regular harbor patrols," Putnam said. "We screen vessels based on certain factors and some of the vessels are escorted."

Putnam said they patrol about 100 miles of coastline with one cutter -- the Galveston Island. The Coast Guard Cutter Sassafras is in Yap, Putnam said.

"We obviously can't be in all places at all times," Putnam said. "We have to do some resource management, focusing on the most critical parts of the island."

INS

"Right now, we are waiting to finish our initial paperwork," said Rocky Miner, the Immigration and Naturalization Service officer-in-charge on Guam. The nine fishermen were placed in INS custody.

"Once that is completed, we'll go ahead and start interviewing them individually and try to get statements from them."

The immigrants were being held at the INS office in Hagåtña yesterday afternoon and were expected to be moved last night to the Department of Corrections in Mangilao, Miner said.

"It is hard to speculate what is actually going to happen. Right now, they are illegal aliens in the United States without documentation, and we'll have to approach that aspect," Miner said.

"Also there is a concern whether or not there was piracy on the vessel."

Miner said this is the first group of people caught this year trying to enter Guam illegally.

"Hopefully, this is the last," Miner said.

In recent years, authorities have caught many groups of suspected illegal immigrants, who jumped from vessels at sea and tried to enter the island, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Search

An extensive search of the waters northwest of the island began early yesterday morning for crewmen from the fishing vessel Ho Cheng No. 11, according to a U.S. Coast Guard press release.

The master of the Taiwanese fishing boat reported that some of his crew abandoned the vessel at 1:00 a.m. The crewmen jumped into the waters about nine miles northwest of Tanguisson Point, the release said.

Early yesterday morning, the Guam Police Department received calls that the immigrants were attempting to come ashore, GPD spokesman Officer A.J. Balajadia said.

At 7:10 a.m., three men were located at the carnival grounds area in Harmon. By 7:15 a.m., six more men were apprehended near the same area, Balajadia said.

The Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island, rescue boats from the Guam Fire Department and the Guam Police Department, and a helicopter from the Navy HC-5 Squadron were involved in yesterday's search.

"They performed very, very well (yesterday) morning," Putnam said, adding that all rescuers put in a "great effort."

 

RECENT ILLEGAL ENTRIES

In recent years, authorities have caught groups of suspected immigrants who reportedly jumped from vessels at sea attempting to enter the island illegally:

· April 15, 1999

The Coast Guard Cutter Sassafras intercepted a vessel carrying 152 suspected illegal Chinese immigrants bound for Guam. The boat was 82 miles northwest of the island when Coast Guard crews boarded the vessel in international waters.

· April 17, 1999

Law enforcement officials detained 105 suspected illegal immigrants after they tried to illegally enter Guam. INS interviews with passengers on the vessel revealed the immigrants were from Fujian province, on China's southeastern coast, across from Taiwan.

· Oct. 10, 2000

Six suspected Chinese illegal immigrants were caught on Andersen Air Force Base and turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The men were dropped off by a fishing boat at Tarague Beach before they were found wandering on the base's main road by military personnel.

· Jan. 3, 2001

Eight suspected Chinese illegal immigrants were believed to have jumped from a Taiwanese fishing vessel off Orote Point. Two bodies found in the water were identified as among those who jumped from the longliner. Three men, believed to be part of the group, were found clinging to a buoy at the entrance of Apra Harbor. On Jan. 5, authorities found the last three suspected illegal immigrants along the shores of Piti.

· Jan. 29, 2001

Eight suspected illegal immigrants believed to have jumped from a ship at Glass Breakwater were detained.

· April 25, 2001

Eight Chinese men swam to shore after jumping from a Taiwanese fishing vessel they allegedly hijacked. The boat's crew, believed to be from China, allegedly shackled the ship's captain, chief engineer and first mate and took control of the 130-foot ship before heading toward Oka Point in Tamuning.

Pacific Daily News files

ON THE NET

· U.S. Coast Guard: www.uscg.mil 

· U.S. Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service: www.ins.usdoj.gov 

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