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HomeNewsArchivesGovernor Says Progress Made Towards Return of ATF to Islands

Governor Says Progress Made Towards Return of ATF to Islands

ATF Director Kenneth Melson. left, and Gov. John deJongh Jr. meet Thursday in Washington D.C.In the nation’s capital all week for discussions with federal officials, Gov. John deJongh Jr. said significant progress was made Thursday towards the return of agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the Virgin Islands.
The ATF, which helps regulate guns and battle violent crime, pulled all four of its agents out of the territory last fall over a dispute concerning the powers and legal protections afforded federal agents while on assignment in the territory.
DeJongh met Thursday with acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson to discuss returning an ATF presence to the territory.
“It became quite clear early on in today’s meeting that Director Melson is committed to seeing the ATF presence in the Virgin Islands restored," deJongh said in a Government House statement on the day’s discussions. "However, I am mindful of their concern as it relates to federal agents being fully protected while on assignment in the Virgin Islands.” deJongh said.
DeJongh said Attorney General Vincent Frazer would work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to address the concerns of the federal agencies through legislation. The administration is working with Senator Patrick Sprauve on the legislation, according to Government House.
“Further revision of the language may be required as a result of today’s meeting and discussions,” deJongh said, adding that he is optimistic that once the concerns of the federal agencies are addressed by the Legislature, the ATF will return agents to the territory.
Melson supported deJongh’s assessment In a news release issued by ATF on Thursday evening.
“As partners in the fight against violent crime, ATF and leaders of the U.S. Virgin Islands are working through sensitive and complex matters," Melson said. "Today we had a productive conversation. … Ensuring safe and secure communities is the paramount mission all law enforcement partners. ATF special agents achieving peace officer status in the U.S. Virgin Islands will strengthen those partnerships going forward. Likewise, it will provide confidence and security to our special agents as they fight violence and firearms-related crimes in those communities."
Melson said he was committed to working with the governor and attorney general "to restore ATF’s presence in the Virgin Islands.”
DeJongh also met Thursday with the Interior Department’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Tony Barbauta and Virgin Islands Desk Officer and former Virgin Islands Senator Basil Ottley. On the agenda were: cooperation between the Department of the Interior and the Virgin Islands on: the finalization of a land transfer for the development of a St. John School; the acquisition of the Alexander Hamilton boyhood home in Estate Grange, St. Croix; alternative energy projects; inclusion of the Virgin Islands in healthcare reform; economic development initiatives and resolving issues surrounding the statute of limitations and residency for Virgin Islands.
The governor also met Sen. Orrin Hatch on Thursday. Hatch will visit the territory later this year and discussed with congressional officials, the progress being made in finalizing the Diageo rum distillery and its construction.
On Friday, deJongh was scheduled to meet with representatives of the Middle States Association for an update on the status of securing full accreditation for St. Croix Central High School.

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