To The Point: Illegal immigrants’ perilous journey remembered

Quite a few of them jumped into the sea from the…

By George H. Tsai

Few local folks remember or care about the 10th anniversary of the Golden Venture tragedy. The aging cargo ship with 310 people from China’s Fujien Province ran aground on June 6, 1993 off the Rockaways.

Quite a few of them jumped into the sea from the ill-fated ship, and 10 drowned or died of hypothermia while trying to swim about 200 yards to the promised land.

The incident was then sending shock waves across the country. As a result, the Immigration and Naturalization Service intensified its crackdown on illegal aliens from that part of the world.

Destined for the United States, the freighter set out stealthily from Kenya and had wandered at sea for 112 days with little food and water for its passengers. It’s obvious the snakeheads mapped tricky sea routes to divert attention.

To coincide with the infamous anniversary, U.S. authorities finally have taken into custody a 53-year-old woman known in Manhattan’s Chinatown as “Sister Pin,” who has been accused of smuggling scores of people from Fujien into this country at a price of $30,000 apiece.

If the allegations against her prove true, she could be a multimillionaire. It would be money made at the expense of poor people seeking a better life halfway around the world.

It’s reported that the snakeheads have doubled that price since then. It’s a very fertile field, isn’t it? No wonder the snakehead is a thriving species.

The suspect’s real name is Cheng Cui Ping, one of the alleged masterminds in the 1993 Gold Venture scam. She was arraigned July 1 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan after losing a three-year extradition fight in Hong Kong.

She pleaded innocent, but she could face a life sentence if convicted of conspiracy, extortion and other charges.

Sister Pin was outside this country when she was indicted in 1994 and in 2000 the FBI captured her at a Hong Kong airport.

In 1997, former President Bill Clinton ordered 38 of the Golden Venture passengers to be released from jail. Those people still are unsure of their fate. There is the possibility that they will face deportation. The Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack is perhaps a contributing factor. So they still have to play hide-and-seek games with immigration agents.

It’s weird, though, that despite their ordeal at sea and huge payment to snakeheads, other passengers who were set free later told a local Chinese-language daily that they would never regret their perilous odyssey.

Regardless of failed bids for status change, they’re determined to continue their fight to remain here permanently. It’s their goal.

A number of them seek political asylum; with lawyers’ help, some have achieved that. Many others, however, are waiting for an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Still others who have suffered repeated rejections in their status-change petitions said they might return to their native land as soon as they could save enough money to lead a comfortable life back home.

According to the Daily News, the snakeheads have made dramatic changes in their smuggling strategy. Now they transport illegals by air instead of sea, through Cuba and other Caribbean islands where smugglers get assistance with bribes.

Through sophisticated arrangements, those illegals are flown to Miami and then LaGuardia. After that, their whereabouts are a mystery, but snakeheads have a tight grip on them because each has to pay off the stunning $60,000-plus fee. Renegades are severely punished.

Hundreds of people are smuggled into this country daily from all over the world. People wish to come here by some means or other. On July 24, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted a group of Cubans trying to get to Florida in a restructured 1951 Chevrolet pickup truck with two huge floating tubes.

Phony marriage is another scheme to help illegal aliens enter this country. An East Harlem woman was reported recently to have married 27 times in 20 years.

The 40-year-old woman has been charged with collecting thousands of dollars from her illegal immigrant husbands in return for tying the knot to get them green cards and other benefits. There are a lot of greedy people.

Is there any way to retard the influx of illegals? Yes, perhaps. Immigration officials know more than we do.

Canada’s immigration laws are tougher than ours. Aliens without a green card can hardly find odd jobs there. I am sure our immigration authorities have taken note of it.

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