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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, June 29, 2022


The 25 Chinese nationals who entered the United States illegally Dec. 30 are being held on material witness charges after one and possibly two men in their group drowned while coming ashore on St. Croix’s east end.
Seven men from the group plead guilty Thursday in District Court to illegally entering the U.S. without inspection. The men faced a possible fine of $5,000 and up to six months in jail. But because of the guilty plea the men were sentenced to time already served plus an additional three days.
According to Willis Reeves, of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in the territory, the Chinese nationals will go through a deportation process but a lack of detention space in the territory will cause the men to be transported to a facility on the mainland.
Because of the drownings U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Resnick ordered that the men be detained an additional 30 days so investigators can determine if foul play was involved.
Jian Quan, 35, drowned while attempting to come ashore near Isaac Bay at approximately 5 a.m. on Dec. 30. His body was recovered from the water later that afternoon.
A second body was recovered from the sea in the same area on Sunday morning. But investigators aren’t sure if the individual was part of the group that came ashore on Dec. 30. Identification of the body has been hampered by the advanced stage of decomposition, police said. According to an autopsy both men had drowned.
"We’re conducting an investigation to determine if there was foul play," Reeves said. "If there was, somebody needs to pay."
Reeves said the method in which the 25 aliens, and hundreds of others over the last year, used to gain entry into the U.S. is a familiar one.
The illegal immigrants pay smugglers up to $40,000 each to be shipped via freighter from China to the Caribbean, Reeves said. Once in the region they are offloaded, placed on faster boats and then dropped offshore of one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"The process, historically, is they make it here and turn themselves in," Reeves said. "They then plead guilty and are placed in the deportation process and transported off island."
Once on the mainland, Reeves said the immigrants post bond and head to New York City, where they retain a lawyer who begins political asylum procedures. Since asylum can take up to five years to receive, immigrants often begin the naturalization process to gain legal entry to the country.
"They get to our shores and turn themselves in and the clock runs," Reeves said. "Basically they are home free."

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