The arrest of 14 Chinese nationals this past week has shed some light as to why – according to the federal government – Chinese workers and tourists in the CNMI have been buying boats and rides in Saipan, then sailing for Guam.
A series of voyages have been discovered over the past year, some of which succeeded with landings along Guam’s northern shores, and one of which had to be rescued for a capsizing in the Rota Channel.
Federal contract worker importation and tourist rules for the CNMI are different than for Guam, which has brought about a large community of people from the People’s Republic of China in Saipan. Some of them have overstayed their allowable time in the CNMI.
“I know from my experience that noncitizens have paid between $3,000 to $5,000 USD cash to be smuggled from the NMI to Guam,” a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations familiar with criminal human smuggling organizations in the CNMI and Guam stated in a recently-unsealed federal complaint.
‘[They] seek to enter Guam for higher wages compared to the NMI,” the agent stated.
She also said noncitizens often enter the CNMI, intending to overstay, and that they save up bulk cash currency in order to pay for their smuggle into Guam.
Kandit sources in the CNMI and on Guam have said some Guam construction companies have been scouting in Saipan, telling Chinese workers they will be paid $200 a day for labor work. The work would be illegal, as these laborers – if they make it to Guam – would not have legal status to work on Guam. Their pay, then, would be under the table and part of the black market.
Such arrangements would make these Chinese illegal workers susceptible to major labor abuses, including a reneging on the ‘$200-a-day’ promise, as the employer knows the worker will not risk deportation by reporting conditions to authorities.
This is not something new for construction companies on Guam. Several similar illegal-worker operations were busted in the 1990s and at the turn of the century. And construction labor work may not be where the illegal aliens end up. Massage parlor patrons on Guam also pay far more money for ‘massages,’ than in the CNMI, increasing the likelihood the female illegal immigrants would wind up prostituting themselves under illegal and inhumane conditions on Guam.
It would not be the first time the so-called massage parlors on Guam would exploit foreign women, turning the human trafficking into a sex trafficking conspiracy.
The agent’s criminal complaint affidavit in this case states Donglin “Tony” Xu was the leader of an effort to get he and 13 others who were arrested and charged entry into Guam via boat. HSI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents intercepted the voyage and they were detained and charged in the U.S. District Court of the CNMI.
The story behind the 14 middle-aged men and women’s plan to get to Guam – if the stated motive is to be believed – is a heartbreaking tale. All of them, according to the complaint, had overstayed their stay in the CNMI. All of them were willing to pay $3,000 a piece for the boat ride from Saipan to Guam. And all of them, according to Mr. Xu, wanted to go to Guam to find work.
For perspective, saving $3,000 in Saipan, Tinian, or Rota is a difficult feat for illegal aliens, some of whom survive financially by prostitution.
For this case, HSI carried out a sting involving wire taps and the use of an undercover agent in order to catch the illegal immigrants in the act of attempting to get to Guam. The sting began in July, and centered around Mr. Xu, who allegedly sent several WhatsApp messages to the undercover agent indicating he was the coordinator of this attempt to go to Guam.
“My two friends who work in construction and I want to go to Guam to find a job,” Mr. Xu wrote in one message to the undercover agent back in July. Mr. Xu, the complaint states, entered Saipan on July 11, 2012, and was supposed to leave Saipan 14 days later. He had been living in Saipan for 11 years past his visa.
In the series of July messages, Mr. Xu wrote about picking up friends in Rota. Eventually, the scheme involved 14 people – including Xu – who would be transported from Saipan.
A July 4 message shows Mr. Xu’s understanding of federal law enforcement activity involving smuggling operations.
“We need you to choose a remote and uninhabited coast in Guam for us to go ashore,” he wrote. “Don’t let DHS see us. This saves you and your friends trouble. And we don’t want the media to report on our affairs, so as to avoid becoming a well-known news event. Because after we successfully arrive in Guam, we will choose an appropriate time to register with the Department of Homeland Security.”
The affidavit does not expound on what this intention for registration means, or the process for it.
On September 13, all 14 would-be travelers arrived at Smiling Cove Marina in Saipan and boarded a boat that was part of the undercover operation. Each of the 14 presented their bundles of cash. Law enforcement arrested them shortly after.
Several similar voyages have succeeded, with Chinese nationals landing on remote shores of Guam’s northern villages. It is unknown whether any of them remain on Guam. Or, if so, if they work for any construction operation or other business.