Guam Cops Use Creativity to Arrest Illegal Aliens

By David North on September 5, 2022

Sometimes we learn useful lessons from obscure sources.

Supposing you are a state or local official faced with an illegal entry. You cannot use the federal immigration law in the situation — what do you do with those illegal aliens who just arrived on your turf?

Well, if you are one of the local cops on Guam and you are dealing with four people arriving by boat from the nearby Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) without prior authorization — such movements are illegal even though both jurisdictions are under the same U.S. flag for reasons we will get to shortly — you get creative, and use some obscure elements of Guam law.

Two of the Chinese entrants were charged with “failure to obtain required clearance and failure to deliver a manifest to a customs officer”. Two others were charged with “an invalid place of unloading”. Both of these are apparently in the territorial law. All four aliens were tossed, at least briefly, into the local jail. (The state of Texas is doing something similar by arresting certain illegal aliens on trespassing charges.) 

Why is it illegal to go from one island under the U.S. flag to another U.S. island? The U.S. immigration law, in a huge mistake, has a foreign worker program for the CNMI that is unique to those benighted islands. You can be admitted to be an alien worker with a CW visa, but that does not allow you to be anywhere else in the U.S., including the somewhat more prosperous Guam. These four were apparently in CNMI on CW visas, though this is not specified in the report.

Another lesson to be learned from this incident is that not all newspapers get warm and fuzzy about illegals. The Guam Post, an arm of the Marianas Variety, published police mug shots of the three men and one woman as well as their names.

The four, incidentally, didn’t pay smugglers to get them over the dozens of miles between CNMI and Guam. They bought a boat for $22,000 and drove it themselves, another oddity of this story. They apparently landed on the heavily populated northwest side of the island in daylight, a dumb move; a night-time landing in the south or east of the island would have been more prudent.

Memories. While the illegal movement by boat between the two territories is one of our nation’s most minor flows of illegals, it is one that I know well.

More than 20 years ago, when I was with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, I was in Guam and knew the lawyer for the Chinese aliens who had made that illicit trip, always by small boat. We at DoI were interested in building a case that the lack of federal control of CNMI’s immigration at that point in time, which was subsequently reversed, was causing illegal migration into Guam.

Using the help of the lawyer, I interviewed 40 or 50 of the illegal migrants/asylum seekers. They were all former garment workers, all women, all Chinese, most more or less legal in CNMI, but illegal on Guam. I told the local INS manager what I was doing, but did not provide their names.

“Do me favor,” he said, “find out what the smuggler looks like.”

Several of the women said he was a middle-aged, very tall, white man. I passed the information on to my INS contact and it seemed to ring a bell with him; another day passed and he called to say “We got him.”

The study was never published for a narrow reason noted by some social scientists within DoI: I did not have a control group! How does one arrange a control group for a group of law-breakers? Such rational thoughts did not prevail.