Bizarre Tale: Three Air Forces Rescue Aliens Moving Illegally from One Part of the U.S. to Another

By David North on July 17, 2023

This is an odd story of how three nations’ air forces combined to rescue 11 aliens who were seeking to move illegally from one part of the U.S. to another.

Typically, illegal aliens come into the U.S. from a foreign nation; but out in the far western Pacific, where somewhat different versions of the immigration laws apply to Guam (those of the Mainland) and to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (different ones) it is possible for an alien to be legally present in the CNMI but an illegal on nearby Guam.

Last week 11 aliens, all from China, all of whom had been legally present in CNMI at one time, but no longer, decided to travel from CNMI on a 20-foot boat to Guam; had they landed on Guam it would have been an illegal entry, but a storm intervened, and they called for help.

First a CNMI rescue boat sought to save them, but just as the Commonwealth’s government is routinely inept, the rescue effort failed. Next, the U.S. Coast Guard got into the act, calling on all ships and planes to look out for the endangered boat; the first to see it was a French Air Force plane, presumably based on Guam. It circled the boat for a while but soon was in danger of running out of fuel.

The U.S. Air Force then assigned a Canadian plane (also presumably Guam-based) to relieve the French one. Finally, in the middle of the night (and the storm) a big U.S. Navy helicopter arrived on the scene for the dangerous task of lifting the Chinese, one by one, out of the vulnerable vessel, all as reported in the Saipan Tribune.

One of the multitudinous costs of illegal aliens is that, from time to time, the U.S. military is used in such rescue operations. But this is the first time that I know of that we have run up the bills of our allies in such an effort.

Memories. While the illegal traffic from CNMI to Guam is a tiny percentage of the total illicit flows, it is not a new one. About a quarter of a century ago, when I was a staffer of the U.S. Department of the Interior agency dealing with our island territories, I was sent to Guam to conduct a small study of people there (routinely Chinese women fleeing from CNMI’s then garment factories). Conveniently, most of them turned to a specific lawyer, from the Mainland, who handled their asylum applications. He, in turn, suggested to them that they help in my study.

I let the local office of the then-INS know what I was doing. The local director then made a request: They had some suspects in mind, and they wanted me to ask the Chinese what the boat captain looked like. They all responded that he was an older Mainlander, tall and with an abundance of facial hair. I passed the info onto INS and they quickly arrested the suspect.

The women were allowed to stay on Guam until their asylum cases were reviewed by INS officers based in Hawaii, who traveled to Guam from time to time. Many of the women won their cases.