Friday, August 26, 2011

'Migrant' held by Coast Guard overstayed visa (Gloucester Times)

'Migrant' held by Coast Guard overstayed visa
By Richard Gaines
Staff Writer

August 25, 2011

The individual removed from a New Bedford fishing boat and described by the Coast Guard as an "undocumented migrant" entered the U.S. under a visa waiver program that allows citizens of participating nations to travel in the country on pleasure and business for up to 90 days, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Because the unidentified individual "failed to depart the country as required, and remained in the U.S. without authorization," he was turned over to the ICE's enforcement and removal branch for deportation.

The individual's nationality was not revealed in a written exchange with the Times.

The matter, the second in two weeks involving a boat owned in part or whole by Carlos Raphael, New Bedford's pre-eminent commercial fishing entrepreneur, and a member of the board of the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, could result in federal charges, according to Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security spokesmen.

However, neither agency was willing to provide a report on the status of the matter, which began on Aug. 13 when the cutter Legere stopped and boarded the 81-foot F/V Southern Crusader II about 60 miles southeast of Nantucket, according to Coast Guard spokesman Jeff Hall.

Raphael's attorney John Markey said he has been in contact with Raphael, who is vacationing in Portugal, and is not aware of any charges against his client. Markey said he did not know the identity of the person taken from the Southern Crusader II.

"Given the facts that have now been disclosed," said Markey, "it is patently clear that neither Mr. Raphael nor anyone in his employ were attempting to do anything illegal in this matter."

Raphael is listed as co-owner of the Southern Crusader II along with Joao Camarao. Raphael's company, R & C Fishing Corp., also owns the Vila Nova Do Corvo II, a 94 foot scalloper, which was boarded a week earlier.

During what was described as a random boarding, a constructed hollow was found in the hull, said the Coast Guard spokesman Hall. He described the void as "large enough for a person to get into." Such cavities sometimes are used to hide fish, but at the time of the boarding, the Vila Nova Do Corvo II was returning to port from a scalloping trip and the void was empty, the Coast Guard said.

"To our knowledge," Markey said in a telephone interview Wednesday, "(the void) existed before Mr. Raphael purchased the boat."

The NOAA vessel notification data base does not indicate when Raphael and Camarao purchased the boat but it was built in 1980, which was the same year Raphael, who emigrated from Corvo — an Azorean island, which is a part of Portugal — began building his fishing business.

The boat had four previous corporate owners and two previous names, Sandra Lee and Cajun Love, according to the data base at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to the Coast Guard spokesman Hall, the captain was cited for operating with a sealed compartment inconsistent with the mission of the boat. We will write it up and send it to enforcement" where lawyers will "look at the plain language and decide what US code to cite."

Whether or not to charge the boat owner or operator, Hall said, would be decided at a higher level and if there is to be a charge it would likely be prosecuted in the civil, Coast Guard administrative law judge system, said Hall.

Raphael's fleet of 40 scalloping and fishing boats based in New Bedford, is the largest in the nation's number one port in terms of landed value and probably the largest in the region.

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