July 23, 2004 – Delegate Donna M. Christensen has introduced a bill in Congress that would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish at least one Border Patrol unit in the Virgin Islands.
Citing the territory's problems with drug and alien smuggling and its position as a vulnerable point in the nation's southern defenses, Christensen said the lack of a Border Patrol presence may be the most critical missing ingredient in securing the territory.
The Virgin Islands has more than 175 miles of unprotected borders and serves as a gateway to the U.S. mainland, she noted in a release issued on Friday. And, she said, since 1998, more than 500 Chinese nationals have entered the territory illegally.
Because there is no Border Patrol presence in the territory, Christensen said, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit and National Park Service personnel spend too much time apprehending, processing, detaining and keeping watch over aliens taken into custody.
"Having a Border Patrol unit assigned to the territory would also give the territory more tools to deal with drug smuggling, which underlies much of the crime problem in our community," she said. "It has been noted that one third of listed terrorist organizations are involved in drug trafficking."
Christensen, a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said she had intended to introduce the measure as an amendment to the Homeland Security Authorization Act, but a planned markup was rescheduled, and so she introduced it as a separate bill instead. She said she is planning to offer the amendment again after Congress reconvenes in September.
In the release, Christensen said talks with Robert Bonner, director of Customs and Border Protection, have been fruitful. And she thanked Edwin Torres, an agent with the St. Croix protection unit, for input helpful in drafting the bill.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas 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.