Jan. 9, 2004 – U.S. Attorney David Nissman said his office is trying to get a U.S. Border Patrol agent for St. Thomas and St. John to help alleviate the islands' illegal alien problem.
"We don't know who these people are who come from China," Nissman said in his address to the nearly three dozen members and guests at Friday's meeting of the Rotary Club of St. John at the Westin Resort.
Charging that the Chinese government invests heavily in Arab interests, he said this could pose a threat to the United States' security.
Illegal aliens from many other countries as well as China often arrive on St. John. Since the territory has no border patrol agents, it is up to V.I. National Park and Police Department personnel to apprehend them.
Nissman said his office prosecutes every case brought to it by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which comes under the umbrella of the federal Homeland Security Department. However, he acknowledged that the immigration unit sometimes handles cases administratively.
Nissman also addressed a pending land deal between the National Park Service and the local government so the local government can build a school on St. John. Currently, students at Julius E. Sprauve School in Cruz Bay must contend with constant traffic noise, and St. John has no public high school.
Since the federal government cannot swap park land, Nissman has suggested that the local government lease park land, probably at Catherineberg, in exchange for the territory giving up rights to land it owns within the boundaries of Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve.
"What's the problem? Do you think the federal government is going to kick kids out of school?" he asked, suggesting that a 99-year lease on the land might be possible.
Nissman said that sending St. John students to St. Thomas to school hinders their education because it's difficult for them to participate in after-school activities. And he noted that he's heard St. John youths often drop out at age 16 because they don't sense the importance of education. Building a school for students all the way through high school on St. John would, he said, help prevent crime.
"If we don't think about crime prevention, we're always going to be these street sweepers," he said, referring to law enforcement's job of picking up criminals.
Nissman also suggested that the park place its proposed museum on the school grounds as a way to educate students about the park.
Shirley Joseph, who retired last year as Sprauve principal, suggested that the school curriculum include trade courses such as those that would prepare students to work in the marine, science and environmental industries. "And people in the business community should serve as mentors," she said.
Nissman also discussed the U.S. Justice Department's push to prosecute corruption in the local government. As an example, he said, local government officials may violate federal mail and wiretap laws by failing to comply with local bidding laws. Such practices means the public pays more than it should for shoddy workmanship.
"And people who deliver a good job won't participate," he said.
He urged the Rotarians to report any suspected violations to his office.
Nissman promised to spend one day a month on St. John to deal with issues pertinent to the island. "If I miss a month, the next month I'll come two days," he said.
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