Northern Mariana Islands:

Procedures for Processing Aliens and Merchandise

GGD-00-97: Published: May 26, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands' (CNMI) customs administration, focusing on: (1) procedures for controlling the flow of aliens and goods into and out of the CNMI; and (2) the aliens' use of public health care and education and their involvement in criminal activities in the CNMI.

GAO noted that: (1) CNMI does not require visas for people entering the CNMI, nor does it have the capability to prescreen all aliens who enter the CNMI; (2) however, the CNMI has implemented procedures for prescreening prospective alien workers and all aliens who wish to enter CNMI from those countries that it considers "high risk," such as countries who have not always been willing to repatriate their nationals; (3) alien workers are required to provide the results of criminal background checks from their home countries to CNMI immigration officials when they enter the CNMI or to have the results provided directly to the CNMI Department of Labor and Immigration to reduce the possibility of fraud; (4) alien workers are also required to bring health certificates with them to the CNMI; (5) aliens are required to undergo screenings at a CNMI-certified health clinic within 10 days of entering the CNMI and every year thereafter; (6) employers are financially responsible for their alien workers' health care and return airfare while the workers remain in the CNMI; (7) in some cases, the law also requires employers to provide free food and housing; (8) according to CNMI officials, CNMI governmental agencies are also used as a means to monitor the status of illegal aliens; (9) the CNMI manually records the date of entry and the date of departure of visitors; (10) by manually tracking the departure date, CNMI immigration officials can identify those visitors who have not left the CNMI; (11) according to the CNMI Customs Director, the Customs Division is to inspect all cargo containers coming from Asian countries and randomly inspect containers arriving from non-Asian countries, including the United States; (12) garments manufactured in the CNMI account for an estimated 99 percent of the CNMI's exports, and containers of garments ready for export are inspected on a periodic basis; (13) the U.S. Customs Service has conducted a number of joint investigations with the CNMI Customs Division over the past few years; (14) although these investigations have uncovered some drug-smuggling activities, the investigations have found no evidence of diversions; (15) aliens accounted for 26 percent of fiscal year 1999 public health expenditures, and about 11 percent of the public school system's operating costs for the 1999-2000 school year; and (16) aliens accounted for between 44 percent and 69 percent of the arrests for the five most frequent crimes in the CNMI in those years for which data were available, and these percentages roughly align with the aliens' proportion of the CNMI population.

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