Four South American men who had stowed away on a Baltimore-bound freighter, hiding for eight days in a makeshift nest under 200-pound bags of coffee beans, were ordered deported yesterday by a U.S. immigration judge.
Four other stowaways who had also squirreled themselves away in the same nest aboard the Peruvian freighter Rimac will be flown back to South America by the ship's owners, according to immigration officials. A deportation hearing for a ninth stowaway is pending.
The nine men - six Peruvians and three Ecuadorians - lived in the ship's hold throughout the journey, immigration officials believe. Temperatures in the cargo area of the ship can rise as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, they added.
At least one stowaway told the immigration investigator who picked him up that the nine had lived on three large jugs of water and cans of sardines that they plifered from the ship's stores.
Five of the stowaways were picked up at the Trailways Bus Terminal in Baltimore Friday after Tom Kushnerick, an investigator for the U.S. Immigration Service, received a tip that some illegal aliens had just come into the city from the cargo docks in the Locust Point section of the city. All five had one-way bus tickets to New York City.
"The last thing I would have expected when I (first) talked to them was that they were stowaways," Kushnerick said yesterday.
"Stowaways normally have dirty clothes," he added, "and they are unshaven and smelly from having been holed up in the bottom of a ship for so long. But these men were among the cleanest, neatest people I've ever seen - pressed pants, shirts and polished shoes."
After the men were unable to provide Kushnerick with any sort of document showing they had entered the country legally, one of the five told the investigator that he had come off the Rimac, which had stopped in Baltimore to unload some copper before heading to Philadelphia and New york City with coffee, zinc and cocoa.
Kushnerick then searched the ship and found the nest in the cargo area. Four other men were still hiding there, apparently waiting for dark before leaving the ship, Kushnerick said.
None of the stowaways told immigration officials or immigration Judge John Spears why they hid themselves on the ship. Three of the Peruvians had previously tried to sneak into the U.S. by stowing away on ships. All had been deported after these efforts, according to the Immigration Service's assistant district director of investigations here, Robert Short.
Short said that once a foreign ship passes its initial on-board check by U.S. immigration officials before it has docked, it is relatively easy then for a stowaway to walk off the ship and disappear into the city.
"Unless we catch (stowaways) coming off the ship without their alien papers, or catch them still in the nest, we can suspect they're stowaways but we can't do anything," Short said.
"So they (stowaways) gamble. Heads, they get away. Tails, they lose."
A shipping agent here said the owner of the Rimac, a company called the Peruvian State Line, will pay for the air fare to send the stowaways - the four still on the ship and the four ordered deported today - back to Ecuador and Peru. The agent, Mike Roth, said he did not know how much that would cost. Roth also said the company and the captain of the ship had "no idea" that stowaways were on the freighter.