A pregnant Haitian woman was arrested on Tuesday, Jan. 31, by U.S. National Park rangers, who discovered her hiding in a makeshift camp near the Catherineberg plantation ruins.
The woman was discovered by a ranger who was patrolling the area on foot, according to V.I. National Park Chief Ranger Steve Clark.
As the ranger walked behind the ruins, he observed movement about 20 or 30 yards into the woodline, said Clark.
When he walked down the trail to attempt to speak with them, they fled through the dense brush, Clark continued. At that point, due to officer safety concerns, he returned to his vehicle and requested backup.
Shotgun Found Earlier
The ranger feared for his safety because of the recent discovery of a sawed-off shotgun and discarded clothing in another area of the park, according to Clark.
The shotgun was not found at the Catherineberg ruins, and it was found on a different date, said Clark, who did not specify the time or location the weapon was found. But you never know what youre going to run into.
Clark said he responded to the scene and did not initially see any individuals in the area.
Closer inspection of the ruins revealed a lone female in her 20s, who was then arrested by the U.S. Park rangers, he said.
The woman was taken into custody, and transported to the National Park dock on St. Thomas by a National Park Service patrol boat.
Clark estimated the woman was four to five months pregnant, and said the woman admitted her pregnancy before being taken into custody.
She was showing, and there was no question in my mind that she was pregnant, he said. I inquired about that for her safety.
Based on evidence found at the makeshift camp, including toilet paper, clothing and trash, individuals had been staying there for a day or two, added Clark.
The Haitian woman is now in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Puerto Rico, said ICE spokes-person Ivan Ortiz.
She was interviewed, but details from that interview are not being released, Ortiz added.
Seeking Shelter at Ruins
Immigrants seeking shelter at ruins is a new trend, said Clark.
Its becoming apparent that theyre utilizing ruins as a shelter, he said. That is new to me, that they are being so bold as to seek these areas out. We patrol these areas daily, and go deep into the heart of the park and do back country patrols.
Just a week before the Haitian woman was arrested, several Haitian immigrants occupying old ruins in the vicinity of Francis Bay were arrested.
Rangers have been aggressively patrolling these ruins to ensure that theres nobody occupying them, said Clark. Its definitely a situation that warrants immediate attention.