Feb. 29, 2004 Federal authorities intercepted early Sunday what has become the latest group of immigrants attempting to land on U.S. soil.
Twenty Haitian nationals were first detected by a Coast Guard jet conducting surveillance off the coast of St. John before Immigration and National Park Service enforcement personnel were called in to assist.
Spokesman for Immigration and Customs enforcement Ivan Ortiz said authorities moved in on the illegal immigrants around 3 a.m. Sunday. "A Coast Guard Falcon (jet) intercepted a vessel with about 20 illegal aliens and as they made landfall, agents from the National Park Service arrested five of them." The other 15 got away almost immediately after landing, according to Oritiz.
Immigration agents were sent to St. John to transport the group of Haitians to St. Thomas where they were processed late Sunday. Ortiz said the Sunday landing brought to 24 the number of undocumented nationals making an attempt at landfall in the Virgin Islands within the last week. But on a wider scale, Ortiz said between Oct. 1, 2002 and Sunday, 72 persons have been charged with attempting to land illegally in the Virgin Islands. In most cases, he said, the landings took place off St. John.
While admitting that each attempted landing of an illegal on the shores of the Virgin Islands is a violation of law and therefore a concern, Ortiz said Sunday Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, is not overly troubled by the apparent increase of such landings in the territory in recent months. "We are not too worried about it…we are conducting business as usual and we are ready to tackle any situation that may arise."
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.