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Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Jan. 28, 2002 – The growing number of illegal immigrants passing through the Virgin Islands National Park has become a major drain on its management resources, park Supt. John King said Monday.
"We've been having an influx of illegal immigrants passing through the park," he said. "It's getting to be a huge burden on our park rangers."
On Friday, rangers detained 31 persons identified as Chinese nationals on park property in the Maho Bay area. They held them as suspected illegal immigrants until an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent could arrive from St. Thomas.
Those 31, along with four other Chinese and six Haitians picked up on St. Thomas on Saturday, have been transported to the Golden Grove prison on St. Croix, INS spokesman Ivan Ortiz said. They have begun going through INS procedures and many are expected to apply for political asylum, Ortiz said, but they also face the possibility of deportation.
According to V.I. National Park records, a total of 17 illegal immigrants were picked up there in 2002 but the number grew to 120 last year. Less than a month into 2002, there already have been 42 illegal immigrants detained in the park.
King said he believes those numbers represent only a fraction of the actual number of illegal immigrants who come ashore from boats onto park land. With only one or two rangers on patrol at times, he said, the park does not have the resources to handle problems of illegal immigration.
The number of illegal immigrants apprehended territorywide grew from 202 in Fiscal Year 1998 to 622 in Fiscal Year 2001, according to INS statistics.
Smugglers transporting illegal aliens seeking to enter the United States drop them off at the isolated beaches of St. Thomas and St. John. At the moment, the beaches at Maho, Francis and Leinster Bays along St. John's North Shore appear to be popular dropoff points, King said.
There is no federal Border Patrol detachment stationed in the Virgin Islands. The INS generally has enough staff to meet its needs in the territory, but additional agents are sometimes sent to augment the permanent staff, Ortiz said.

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