April 9, 2004 – All 25 of the undocumented aliens caught in or attempting to enter the territory at the start of this week will be charged with illegal entry, and one individual will face charges of smuggling, a law enforcement official said on Friday.
Police apprehended 15 persons from China, Haiti and the Dominican Republic 14 on Sunday and one on Monday — on St. John. Authorities believe they arrived by boat but were not able to say where or when they came ashore.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers stopped a speedboat carrying a group of 10 would-be immigrants before dawn Tuesday in nearby British Virgin Islands waters.
U.S. Justice Department officials have charged the man they believe to be the boat's captain with attempting to bring eight people from the Dominican Republic, one from Sint Maarten and one Jordanian national into U.S. waters. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Carroll said the alleged smuggler, whose name and nationality are not being released, could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if found guilty.
Those charged with illegal entry, a misdemeanor, could be imprisoned for up to 6 months and fined up to $5,000. Their financial status could limit a fine, however, Carroll said. "The judge has to take into account a number of factors before imposing a fine," he said, "and one of those has to be ability to pay."
No arraignment date has been set for any of the detainees.
Ivan Ortiz, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman in Puerto Rico, said that while it's relatively uncommon for Jordanians to attempt to enter the United States illegally, the individual detained will be treated the same as the other illegal aliens. "We run the same check on the guy from Jordan as we do the guy from the Dominican Republic," he said.
Although March statistics have not yet been released, Ortiz said, the number of illegal immigrants caught in the territory from last October to this February — 112 — is down sharply from the 161 apprehended during the same period a year earlier.
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