July 18, 2002 – An anonymous tip led police and immigration officials to a group of 37 Chinese nationals who made an illegal landing on St. John early Thursday morning.
According to Ivan Ortiz, spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the caller alerted INS officials at Cyril E. King Airport around 6:30 a.m.
"The inspectors at the St. Thomas airport received an anonymous call telling them that there was a group of people who appeared to be Chinese on St. John," Ortiz said. "We sent INS personnel to St. John, but before that we called police."
Ortiz said the same caller probably alerted officials at the airport, knowing it was too soon for the INS office on St. Thomas to have opened for the day.
A total of 29 men and eight women were apprehended on the eastern end of St. John and were transported to INS headquarters on St. Thomas around mid-day. Ortiz said arrangements were being made with the U.S. Attorney's office for an advice-of-rights hearing, after which some of the Chinese would be sent to the Golden Grove Correctional Facility on St. Croix, while others would be taken to the INS holding facility in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.
Ortiz said it has been about a month since the last time INS picked up a group of illegal aliens in the Virgin Islands. Boats operated by smugglers who often charge thousands of dollars to get would-be immigrants into the United States customarily drop the aliens off by at beaches. From there, the groups go ashore and typically wait to be picked up without protest by authorities.
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