March 21, 2003 – The No. 2 person in the nation's new Department of Homeland Security has agreed to visit the Virgin Islands at the invitation of Sen. Lorraine Berry, who chairs the Senate's also-new Public Safety, Judiciary, Homeland Security and Justice Committee.
Michael Brown, undersecretary designate of the federal department, will be in the territory on April 14 and 15 to meet with V.I. officials "as a means of ascertaining the territory's readiness to respond to terrorist-related hostilities," Berry said in a release distributed on Thursday.
Berry described Brown as "Secretary Tom Ridge's point man" and said he will meet with her committee on April 14.
Repeating a phrase she used several weeks ago in a radio broadcast, Berry referred the Virgin Islands as "the soft underbelly of the United States" in a letter to Brown acknowledging his agreement to visit the territory. She said Brown's appearance will "go a long way in assuring us that the federal government is taking the Virgin Islands very seriously."
Berry reiterated what she had told Brown in earlier correspondence — that with the open border of its shorelines and "the indictment and conviction of Arab smuggling," the Virgin Islands "is a piece of cake" for illegal entry and exit.
In a March 3 "Lorraine Berry Report" radio address, the senator cited comments made by Harold Baker, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency director, at a conference in Washington on homeland security readiness. She said Baker told Ridge: "We have 175 miles of unprotected open borders — we are the gateway to the United States … We even have seen, in recent times, Cubans walk our streets, and even Chinese nationals have been apprehended."
(The reference was to an ongoing tide of illegal aliens who are dropped off from boats, make their way ashore, and willingly allow themselves to be taken into custody and turned over to federal immigration authorities.)
Later at that same conference, Berry said, an aide she had sent in her stead because illness prevented her from attending spoke with Brown. The aide, Berry said, pointed out to Brown that the territory is home to the largest oil refinery in the Western Hemisphere; it has seen the conviction of residents for smuggling Middle Eastern nationals into the country; and, according to The Miami Herald, it was the point of entry to the United States for Muhammad Atta, identified as ringleader of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
As a result, Berry said, Brown "became assured the Virgin Islands is not only the gateway to the United States, it is also the soft underbelly."
She described Brown in the March 3 radio address as "the key man in the Department of Homeland Security, which has been appropriated $5.9 billion to be dispensed among the states and territories."

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