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Illegal Immigrants on St. John Leaving Change in Their Pants

Feb. 28, 2004 ––The U.S. Coast Guard Saturday picked up 72 undocumented immigrants aboard a 47-foot catamaran heading for St. John.
"A Coast Guard jet on routine patrol called in the Coast Guard cutter Ocracoke," Eric Willis, a junior grade lieutenant said Monday. The pilot spotted the French-registered catamaran near St. John just inside U.S. Virgin Islands territorial waters.
Willis said 69 of the people on board were Haitian. Fifty-three were men and 16 women -a man and a woman were from the Dominican Republic. One man was a French citizen.
He said the boat, the Zawaec, had come from Martinique and the majority of the passengers will be repatriated to Haiti. "The Haitian nationals are being transferred from one cutter to another right now."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Ivan Ortiz said Monday the vessel was seized and all 72 passengers were charged with illegal entry.
Saturday's apprehension was observed by several Coral Bay area residents.
St. John resident Les Anderson said Saturday the Coast Guard took all the passengers off the catamaran and put them on the cutter.
Another resident said, after the initial contact, the Ocracoke moved into Hurricane Hole, where it looked like they were interrogating the passengers underneath a tent sent up aboard the ship.
This is the latest in what has become the almost routine arrival of undocumented immigrants in the Coral Bay area. Willis said the Coast Guard seized another catamaran loaded with undocumented illegal immigrants several months ago. And residents report a steady stream of undocumented immigrants landing on St. John's remote shorelines.
As soon as the undocumented immigrants reach shore, they change out of their wet clothes into dry ones, leaving behind the discarded ones. Paths near the shore are strewn with discarded clothes, shoes and even luggage.
"I found a pair of Calvin Klein jeans with $10 still in the pocket," Anderson said.

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