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Immigration Agents Capture 41 from Cuba, Haiti on St. Croix

April 2, 2007 — Forty-one would-be migrants were apprehended and detained after coming ashore on St. Croix, according to immigration officials.
They arrived in two separate groups of Caribbean economic and political refugees, one Haitian and one Cuban, said officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Apparently both groups arrived on St. Croix by way of St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles.
The first group, arrested Saturday, consisted of 35 Haitian nationals — 27 males, seven females and one minor — discovered near Grapetree Bay in the southeastern part of St. Croix, officials said. According to ICE, the second group consisted of six Cuban nationals who arrived April 1. The Cubans allegedly paid $3,000 each for transportation to U.S. soil.
The detainees were taken to the ICE headquarters in Sunny Isle, which directed all questions to Ivan Ortiz at the San Juan ICE public affairs office. Ortiz provided an official news release and offered to answer questions, but said he had few details of the arrest beyond the facts contained in the press release.
Initial news accounts said it was possible some had drowned on the way to shore from the boat. Also, one woman reportedly needed medical attention for exhaustion and dehydration.
"We believe everyone is accounted for and no one drowned," Ortiz said. "There was no death."
After a private security guard saw and reported a suspicious boat to the V.I. Police Department on Friday, local officials contacted ICE. Once morning came, they began to jointly round up the would-be migrants over the course of several hours. They were found scattered among the dense, thorny underbrush inland from Grapetree Bay.
The Haitians will be transported to a federal immigration-detention facility in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, where they will be held during removal proceedings, Ortiz said. They will most likely be returned to Haiti, he said. Tightly controlling Haitian immigration has been U.S. policy since the late 1980s, but since 2002 the U.S. Attorney General has routinely interceded to prevent Haitian refugees from being granted asylum or released on bond. At that time, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft cited national security concerns and fear of a mass Haitian migration as reasons for the policy.
The Cubans, on the other hand, will get political asylum. The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in the early years of the rule of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, grants asylum automatically for any Cuban who sets foot on U.S. soil. Amnesty International and other human-rights organizations have condemned the U.S. for what they say is a double standard.
Reports indicated the boat carrying the 35 Haitians was a cigarette boat, although the boat has not been found. Such boats typically are built for no more than five passengers. Favored by smugglers, they can go more than 50 nautical miles an hour on smooth seas and a steady 25 nautical miles per hour in typical Caribbean sea conditions.
"Smugglers are finding out that using the Caribbean Basin for their smuggling ventures is no longer an option," said Manuel Torres, special agent in charge of ICE investigations in Puerto Rico, according to the release.
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April 2, 2007 -- Forty-one would-be migrants were apprehended and detained after coming ashore on St. Croix, according to immigration officials.
They arrived in two separate groups of Caribbean economic and political refugees, one Haitian and one Cuban, said officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Apparently both groups arrived on St. Croix by way of St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles.
The first group, arrested Saturday, consisted of 35 Haitian nationals -- 27 males, seven females and one minor -- discovered near Grapetree Bay in the southeastern part of St. Croix, officials said. According to ICE, the second group consisted of six Cuban nationals who arrived April 1. The Cubans allegedly paid $3,000 each for transportation to U.S. soil.
The detainees were taken to the ICE headquarters in Sunny Isle, which directed all questions to Ivan Ortiz at the San Juan ICE public affairs office. Ortiz provided an official news release and offered to answer questions, but said he had few details of the arrest beyond the facts contained in the press release.
Initial news accounts said it was possible some had drowned on the way to shore from the boat. Also, one woman reportedly needed medical attention for exhaustion and dehydration.
"We believe everyone is accounted for and no one drowned," Ortiz said. "There was no death."
After a private security guard saw and reported a suspicious boat to the V.I. Police Department on Friday, local officials contacted ICE. Once morning came, they began to jointly round up the would-be migrants over the course of several hours. They were found scattered among the dense, thorny underbrush inland from Grapetree Bay.
The Haitians will be transported to a federal immigration-detention facility in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, where they will be held during removal proceedings, Ortiz said. They will most likely be returned to Haiti, he said. Tightly controlling Haitian immigration has been U.S. policy since the late 1980s, but since 2002 the U.S. Attorney General has routinely interceded to prevent Haitian refugees from being granted asylum or released on bond. At that time, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft cited national security concerns and fear of a mass Haitian migration as reasons for the policy.
The Cubans, on the other hand, will get political asylum. The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in the early years of the rule of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, grants asylum automatically for any Cuban who sets foot on U.S. soil. Amnesty International and other human-rights organizations have condemned the U.S. for what they say is a double standard.
Reports indicated the boat carrying the 35 Haitians was a cigarette boat, although the boat has not been found. Such boats typically are built for no more than five passengers. Favored by smugglers, they can go more than 50 nautical miles an hour on smooth seas and a steady 25 nautical miles per hour in typical Caribbean sea conditions.
"Smugglers are finding out that using the Caribbean Basin for their smuggling ventures is no longer an option," said Manuel Torres, special agent in charge of ICE investigations in Puerto Rico, according to the release.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.