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Illegal entries from CNMI closely watched

By Tiffany Sukola HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety, Jan. 27, 2010) – With the recent federal takeover of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) immigration, Guam Customs officials are bracing themselves for an imminent surge in the number of illegal aliens trying to cross the island’s borders.

"We’re keeping our eyes on the CNMI," said Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency Director Dennis Santo Tomas, explaining that the number of illegal immigrants trying to come to this territory will dramatically increase as the year progresses.

Earlier this month, a group of 24 Chinese nationals were arrested on Saipan for attempting to sneak into Guam on a boat.

Santo Tomas said the Customs agency anticipates similar attempts over the next few months.

In response to the incident, Customs officials have started to pay extra attention to the rest of the Marianas region.

Since the CNMI has recently enforced federal immigration laws, Santo Tomas said Customs anticipates more illegal aliens to attempt to sneak past Guam’s borders.

"Rota is only 30 miles away," said Santo Tomas, explaining that illegal aliens will find Guam’s proximity appealing.

According to Santo Tomas, Customs officers are already tasked with protecting the island’s borders from terrorist attacks, diseases, invasive species and drugs.

However, the director added that although Customs officers are already busy at the border, efforts are being made to ensure the training officers receive is up to date.

Santo Tomas mentioned the need to continue training Customs officers to keep up with the demand at the border during a proclamation signing in Adelup on Monday.

Gov. Felix Camacho officially declared this week as Guam Customs and Quarantine Week, honoring the work of the men and women tasked with protecting the island’s borders.

"They do a great job at safekeeping our borders," said Camacho. "Their selfless commitment gives the people of Guam comfort and security."

Santo Tomas said this week will be a busy one for the agency as Customs officers will participate in several public outreach programs.

Officers will give a presentation to M.U. Lujan Elementary School later this week he said.

Other teambuilding activities are planned for Customs officers, to help enhance agency camaraderie.

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