Our Borough Borders On Water And Air
JFK Airport is an entryway for immigrants.
Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen
By Jeff Feinman
Mighty swarms of people putter about in the borough of Queens every single day, but how do we know just who is sneaking in when no one is looking? With two of the world’s busiest airports and accessible means of water routes, Queens is rife with opportunities for illegal immigrants to travel into U.S. territories.
As a borough along the East Coast, Queens’ water traffic is monitored tightly by the U.S. Coast Guard. Residents can remember back to 1993, when a ship called the Golden Venture ran aground in Rockaway Beach. Discovered in the wee early hours on the morning of June 6, the Golden Venture was carrying 286 illegal immigrants to American shores from China. Ten people drowned while trying to flee the stranded ship.
The detainees from the Golden Venture were taken into custody by the INS and brought to federal prisons. About 10 percent of them were granted political asylum. Others have remained in prison for years fighting to obtain the right to live on American soil.
In addition, millions of people pass through John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports every year, with only our U.S. Customs agents to screen them as they enter. Hundreds of people are detained at the airports every year without proper or with fraudulent identification. But for every one that gets busted, countless more come in with recycled and forged passports from other nations.
The security of the country’s borders has been a major concern in the White House. Since President George W. Bush took office, the country has tightened up around the edges by increasing funding for border security by 66 percent. In that time, approximately 6 million illegal immigrants were apprehended and sent home.
“Our officers are trained in documentation verification, and it’s a lot harder to get into the country without proper verification,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Kelly Klundt. “(Illegals) will do anything to defeat our security, and counterfeiters are often very good, but we can verify citizenship much more readily than in the past.”
The U.S. Border Patrol has offices spread out along the northern border between the United States and Canada. New York State has such offices in areas like Buffalo and Rochester. In 2005, the U.S. Border Patrol reported that 400 apprehensions were made in the Buffalo sector, compared to 7,342 along the rest of the entire northern border.