Feb. 1, 2004 – There has been a marked decline in the number of illegal aliens being dropped off on the shores of the Virgin Islands, notably of those who are Chinese nationals, according to U.S. Marshal Conrad Hoover.
The numbers of Chinese being transported to the territory illegally by boat rose steadily through the mid-1990s and into the new millennium.
Overall, from mid-2001 to mid-2002, a total of 708 persons were apprehended for illegal entry into the territory. From mid-2002 to mid-2003, however, fewer than half that number — 325 such individuals — were arrested.
Two factors together have "put a clamp on the Virgin Islands as a conduit" for illegal aliens, Hoover said: increased border security that went in effect after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland, and better-coordinated efforts among various federal law-enforcement agencies.
"We have seen stricter law enforcement and a lot of the things the other federal agencies had done previously, up to this point, in locking down the Virgin Islands as an avenue for illegals coming in," Hoover said. He made the remarks on Tuesday at a press conference called for the public presentation of a check to the Police Department representing funds from the federal seizure of assets and property in criminal cases in the territory.
On Sunday, Attorney General Iver Stridiron also noted the fall-off in arrivals of undocumented aliens. The Corrections Bureau, which falls under the V.I. Justice Department, headed by Stridiron, helps process persons who are detailed for illegally entering the territory.
"We haven't in the last several months seen any of the Chinese immigrants coming into the territory through St. John and the eastern parts of St. Thomas the way we used to. There may be something happening," Stridiron said.
He said federal enforcement agents have been involved in initiatives in Sint Maarten, long recognized as a transit point for individuals seeking to enter the United States illegally.
The last large influx of undocumented Chinese into the territory came at the end of August 2002, when in two successive days a total of 38 — along with 20 Haitians — were taken into custody on St. John. (See "58 illegal aliens keep St. John officers busy".)
The popularity of the Virgin Islands as a dropoff point is because it is both a part of the Caribbean and a part of the United States, and the same is true of neighboring Puerto Rico. Last week the BBC reported the seizure by authorities in the commonwealth of 99 illegal immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico's neighbor to the west.
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