Racist Marianas Descent Corporation Gets $100,000 from CNMI Government

July 22, 2014

CNMI Governor Eloy Inos sat on a controversial
appropriations bill that included awarding the xenophobic Northern Marianas Descent Corp. $100,000. Any appropriations bill not signed into law within 20 days passes. Such a cowardly move.

House Local Bill 18-45 appropriated $1 million in Managaha landing fees. The bulk of the money, $800,000, will be used for land compensation; $100,000 will go to the NMI Museum of History and Culture; and $100,000 will go to the Northern Marianas Descent Corp.

It was Saipan Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro who added an amendment to the bill appropriating $100,000 to the Northern Marianas Descent Corp.

Ogumoro is an outspoken leader of the racist group.

In recent months this group has spearheaded racist political attacks on foreign workers, opposed U.S. immigration bills granting status to the CNMI's legal nonresidents, and opposed allowing citizens not of NMI descent to vote on Article 12 initiatives.

So many questions. What are the funds to be used for? Why should this non-profit receive funding when the CNMI Government owes money to CUC and cannot even properly fund the public schools? What other non-profits are funded by the CNMI Government?

The CNMI Government already funds an Indigenous Affairs Office and a Carolinian Affairs Office. Now it will fund a nonprofit that actually is a politically motivated hate group?

It will be interesting to see what the people think of this sleazy scheme. It is oh so Fitial-ish.

Passing of a Hero

July 17, 2014

Phil Kaplan (second from the right) with members of the 1998
Clinton Administration Task Force and foreign workers who testified
at the 1998 Senate Hearing.
Very sad news. Worker advocate Phil Kaplan passed away Saturday, July 12, 2014 after suffering from renal cancer. Phil was a selfless and generous person who tirelessly supported justice and labor and human rights. He was a friend to every one who crossed his path. He worked for over 20 years as an under-paid lobbyist for the indigent in Washington State before moving to Saipan.

Phil was a devoted advocate for the CNMI's foreign workers. He served as the human rights advocate for the Catholic Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, Saipan in the early 1990s. He assisted dozens of foreign workers on Saipan and Rota.

Many times Phil flew to Rota to support our efforts to help the foreign workers seek justice from abusive employers. On several trips he brought some of the workers back to Saipan so they could seek help from law enforcement officials there. He often paid their legal fees. He provided them with food, found them shelter and watched over them.

In 1994, after months of attacks and threatening phone calls, Phil and an employee of the Governor Tenorio's office hired a body guard to stay with our family. Phil was with our family on the last night we spent in Rota. He brought a turkey and cooked dinner for us and some of our closest Chamorro and Filipino friends. His famous "green sage turkey" recipe was shared many times at our table in Florida when Phil and his beloved wife, Celia visited us.

Phil was Uncle Phil to our children. When we lived on Saipan every weekend he took them bowling, to the beach or to the movies to entertain them. After we moved to Florida, Phil found the bowling lanes and spent afternoons bowling with the kids during every visit.

Phil served as a member of the seven-member team of human rights advocates and attorneys that was contracted by the Clinton Administration in 1998 to investigate and report upon the conditions of the foreign contract workers. After the investigation five foreign workers from Saipan were called upon to testify at a U.S. Senate Hearing. Four of the five individuals were given  asylum in the United States. Phil generously took three of them back to his hometown of Seattle where he and Celia took them under their wings helping them to acclimate, find jobs and start their new lives.

Phil's humility hid the fact that he was truly one of the rare unsung heroes.

I remember Phil for his warmth, genuine kindness and pure heart. One of his most repeated comments was, "Life is good!" Every time I hear that phrase I think of Phil.

We are of course heartbroken by this news, as are many of the workers whose lives he touched. We are grateful to have had such a kind and loving person in our lives. He was an earthly guardian angel to thousands. Rest in peace, dear Phil.

Nani's sketch

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/philkaplan/guestbook

What is Justice?

July 6, 2014

From The Saipan Tribune, by Jayson Camacho
What more appropriate time to discuss liberation, justice and freedom than the CNMI's Liberation Day Parade?

An alien worker carried a sign that read, "Alien worker we deserve improved status" on one side of the sign and "Justice" on the other. Improved status and justice have been denied the legal, long term foreign workers for decades. Good for him!

But, apparently the foreign worker who wore shackles and chains while carrying the sign calling for improved status hit some nerves among at least one CNMI politician. U.S. Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan was quoted by The Saipan Tribune as criticizing the man:
Sablan said the depiction is “false” because no one is being forced to remain in the CNMI. He said the depiction would hurt rather than help the cause of long-term foreign workers for an improved immigration status. 
“Every individual here has the right to free expression, that’s protection [provided for by] both the U.S. and NMI Constitutions. I think it’s an appropriate display of a statement that is false. No one in the Northern Mariana Islands—whether you are a United States citizen or a citizen of a third country—are in shackles here. No one here is being forced to remain here, so that was a wrong message,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune. 
Sablan, who ensured that national immigration reform bills would have provisions giving an opportunity for qualified long-term legal aliens to apply for “green card” which is pathway to U.S. citizenship, said it’s “unfortunate” that someone would resort to a misleading and false depiction of nonresidents’ situations in the CNMI. “Not the sign, but the fact that’s he in chain and lock. That doesn’t help. It hurts him rather that it helps him. Just untrue and it doesn’t help to advance the conversation on the matter. Unfortunately, he’s wrong,” the delegate added. 
As for the word “justice” on the placard, Sablan asked, “Justice before the court? Justice for what? No one here is under any restraint to stay here. Everyone is free. They can get up and leave any time they want to.”
I disagree with Sablan. I think the man's depiction is accurate and courageous. Shackles and chains can represent many things. Chained and shackled to a disenfranchised status, for instance. How long have foreigners in the CNMI been chained to the nonresident worker status; been disenfranchised; been denied of basic rights; been forced to jump through bureaucratic hoops to travel to see their own families? Years? Decades?

While no one is "forced" to stay in the CNMI, as the delegate stated, many thousands of the CNMI's legal long term foreign workers have spent their entire adult lives working in the CNMI, positively contributing to the community and bolstering the economy. They stay with the hope that one day the U.S. Congress will do the right thing and they will finally be granted the improved status that they deserve! They stay because they no longer have a "home" to return to! They stay because there are more opportunities for their U.S. citizen children.

The delegate thinks the lock and chains are "just untrue". I think they are spot on!

The delegate also misunderstood the protester's call for "justice":
 He said, "As for the word “justice” on the placard, Sablan asked, “Justice before the court? Justice for what? No one here is under any restraint to stay here. Everyone is free. They can get up and leave any time they want to.”
Justice does not just mean freedom of movement. Justice is a guest worker program with a pathway to citizenship. Justice is having a vote and representation in a land that you have lived more years than in the country where you were born. Justice is being able to travel freely like the "guest" workers in the mainland can –from state to state and to homelands without having to fill out pages of forms or pay fees. Justice is being respected. Justice is being paid a living wage for every hour that one works. Justice is being free from discrimination and xenophobia. Justice is being viewed as a human being rather than as a labor unit. Justice is equality. Justice is having someone ask you what you mean rather than having people interpret what you mean without even having a discussion with you.

As for the man hurting the alien workers' cause or his image. Ridiculous! The only image that may have been further hurt is the image of the CNMI, which is well-known as a place on U.S. soil where foreigners are exploited and treated as disposable commodities.

Ridiculous too is the suggestion that the chains and shackles "don't advance conversation". That representation absolutely is advancing conversation! He got noticed enough for the CNMI's U.S. Delegate to make a lengthy statement to the media.

Congratulations to the courageous protester who obviously got his message across.

Congratulations also to Rita Doca for being named First Princess in the Liberation Day Court!

Chamber of Commerce President Proposes Inhumane Plan

July 2, 2014

For years, I have been saying there are not enough U.S. citizens to fill all the jobs in the CNMI. With the CNMI-Only Temporary Guest Worker Program ending in 2019, the only reasonable solution would be to grant permanent residency to every legal long term nonresident worker. By doing that a skilled and stable workforce would be ensured.

In a speech before the Chamber of Commerce yesterday Chamber President Alex Sablan admitted that there are not enough U.S. citizens in the CNMI to replace the foreign workers. He is concerned that when the CW Program ends in 2019 there will not be enough workers. He appealed to Governor Inos and Delegate Sablan to ask the U.S. Congress to raise the cap of foreign workers from 14,000 to 16,000 and to establish a permanent guest worker program.

How very typical of a wealthy CNMI business owner to  propose keeping de facto citizen population permanently disenfranchised rather than proposing immediate permanent residency status for every CNMI legal, long term foreign worker.

From The Saipan Tribune:
He said the CNMI already has a CW program that is CNRA-based and is specific to the Commonwealth so extending it in “perpetuity” rather than only until 2019 will meet the CNMI’s needs if it wants to continue to grow its economy. 
“Is it going to be 14,000 or 16,000? I don’t think so but I believe there needs to be something,” he added. 
Sablan, in his presentation before the Chamber membership, said there are over 17,000 foreign and U.S. workers in the private sector and some 4,200 in government. He said there won’t be enough U.S. workers to replace over 11,000 foreign workers and given the growing economy, more workers will be needed. 
“Based on the numbers we project, based on hotel rooms coming online, airlines coming in, ancillary businesses, we are going to need an additional 5,000 employees,” he later said. 
Sablan said the CNMI can bring in as much Micronesian workers as possible, which was what Guam did in the mid-’90s to fulfill its workforce needs.  
But once we exhausted that, and bring those from the U.S. mainland, we still have to look for foreign workers. What the exact number is, I don’t know [but] that’s why we’re asking the governor to commission a report. Look at the dynamics, look at the projections,” he added.
Alex Sablan stated that his plan "meets the CNMI's needs." What about the needs of loyal, dedicated and skilled foreign workers who have contributed to the CNMI for years and decades; those people who make up a majority of the CNMI's population? No thoughts or comments on their needs?

I suppose if one looks at the foreign workers as mere numbers, labor units or disposable commodities it is not necessary to consider their needs. That must be Alex Sablan's problem.

The intent of the CNRA was not to establish a permanent guest worker program, but a temporary one.

The U.S Congress does not need anymore proposals from self-serving CNMI 'leaders' or elected officials. What the U.S. Congress needs to do is to act upon the 2010 Department of the Interior recommendation as was mandated under the law.

That report stated:
"Consistent with the goals of comprehensive immigration reform, we recommend that the Congress consider permitting alien workers who have lawfully resided in the CNMI for a minimum period of five years to apply for long-term status under the immigration and nationality laws of the United States." 

President Obama on Immigration












THE WHITE HOUSE                                            Office of the Press Secretary _________________________________________
For Immediate Release                                                                   June 30, 2014

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON BORDER SECURITY AND IMMIGRATION REFORM

Rose Garden 3:04 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. One year ago this month, senators of both parties –- with support from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities –- came together to pass a commonsense immigration bill.

Independent experts said that bill would strengthen our borders, grow our economy, shrink our deficits.  As we speak, there are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House to pass an immigration bill today. I would sign it into law today, and Washington would solve a problem in a bipartisan way.

But for more than a year, Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to allow an up-or-down vote on that Senate bill or any legislation to fix our broken immigration system. And I held off on pressuring them for a long time to give Speaker Boehner the space he needed to get his fellow Republicans on board.

Meanwhile, here’s what a year of obstruction has meant. It has meant fewer resources to strengthen our borders. It’s meant more businesses free to game the system by hiring undocumented workers, which punishes businesses that play by the rules, and drives down wages for hardworking Americans. It’s meant lost talent when the best and brightest from around the world come to study here but are forced to leave and then compete against our businesses and our workers. It’s meant no chance for 11 million immigrants to come out of the shadows and earn their citizenship if they pay a penalty and pass a background check, pay their fair share of taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line. It’s meant the heartbreak of separated families.

That’s what this obstruction has meant over the past year. That’s what the Senate bill would fix if the House allowed it to go to a vote. Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill. They’d be following the will of the majority of the American people who support reform.

Instead, they’ve proven again and again that they’re unwilling to stand up to the tea party in order to do what’s best for the country. And the worst part about it is a bunch of them know better.

We now have an actual humanitarian crisis on the border that only underscores the need to drop the politics and fix our immigration system once and for all. In recent weeks, we’ve seen a surge of unaccompanied children arrive at the border, brought here and to other countries by smugglers and traffickers.

The journey is unbelievably dangerous for these kids. The children who are fortunate enough to survive it will be taken care of while they go through the legal process, but in most cases that process will lead to them being sent back home. I’ve sent a clear message to parents in these countries not to put their kids through this. I recently sent Vice President Biden to meet with Central American leaders and find ways to address the root causes of this crisis. Secretary Kerry will also be meeting with those leaders again tomorrow. With our international partners, we’re taking new steps to go after the dangerous smugglers who are putting thousands of children’s lives at risk.

Today, I sent a letter to congressional leaders asking that they work with me to address the urgent humanitarian challenge on the border, and support the immigration and Border Patrol agents who already apprehend and deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants every year.  And understand, by the way, for the most part, this is not a situation where these children are slipping through. They’re being apprehended. But the problem is, is that our system is so broken, so unclear that folks don’t know what the rules are.
Now, understand –- there are a number of Republicans who have been willing to work with us to pass real, commonsense immigration reform, and I want to thank them for their efforts. There are a number of Republican leaders in the Senate who did excellent work and deserve our thanks. And less visibly, there have been folks in the House who have been trying to work to get this done. And quietly, because it doesn’t always help me to praise them, I’ve expressed to them how much I appreciate the efforts that they’ve made.

I believe Speaker Boehner when he says he wants to pass an immigration bill. I think he genuinely wants to get something done. But last week, he informed me that Republicans will continue to block a vote on immigration reform at least for the remainder of this year. Some in the House Republican Caucus are using the situation with unaccompanied children as their newest excuse to do nothing. Now, I want everybody to think about that. Their argument seems to be that because the system is broken, we shouldn’t make an effort to fix it. It makes no sense. It’s not on the level. It’s just politics, plain and simple.

Now, there are others in the Republican Caucus in the House who are arguing that they can’t act because they’re mad at me about using my executive authority too broadly. This also makes no sense. I don’t prefer taking administrative action. I’d rather see permanent fixes to the issue we face. Certainly that’s true on immigration. I’ve made that clear multiple times. I would love nothing more than bipartisan legislation to pass the House, the Senate, land on my desk so I can sign it. That’s true about immigration, that’s true about the minimum wage, it’s true about equal pay. There are a whole bunch of things where I would greatly prefer Congress actually do something. I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy, and it’s bad for our future.

So while I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act –- and I hope their constituents will too -– America cannot wait forever for them to act. And that’s why, today, I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress. As a first step, I’m directing the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to move available and appropriate resources from our interior to the border. Protecting public safety and deporting dangerous criminals has been and will remain the top priority, but we are going to refocus our efforts where we can to make sure we do what it takes to keep our border secure.

I have also directed Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Holder to identify additional actions my administration can take on our own, within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can. If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours. I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay.

Of course, even with aggressive steps on my part, administrative action alone will not adequately address the problem. The reforms that will do the most to strengthen our businesses, our workers, and our entire economy will still require an act of Congress. And I repeat: These are reforms that already enjoy the wide support of the American people. It’s very rare where you get labor, business, evangelicals, law enforcement all agreeing on what needs to be done. And at some point, that should be enough. Normally, that is enough. The point of public service is to solve public problems. And those of us who have the privilege to serve have a responsibility to do everything in our power to keep Americans safe and to keep the doors of opportunity open. And if we do, then one year from now, not only would our economy and our security be stronger, but maybe the best and the brightest from around the world who come study here would stay and create jobs here.

Maybe companies that play by the rules will no longer be undercut by companies that don’t. Maybe more families who’ve been living here for years, whose children are often U.S. citizens, who are our neighbors and our friends, whose children are our kids’ friends and go to school with them, and play on ball teams with them, maybe those families would get to stay together. But much of this only happens if Americans continue to push Congress to get this done.

So I’ve told Speaker Boehner that even as I take those steps that I can within my existing legal authorities to make the immigration system work better, I’m going to continue to reach out to House Republicans in the hope that they deliver a more permanent solution with a comprehensive bill. Maybe it will be after the midterms, when they’re less worried about politics. Maybe it will be next year. Whenever it is, they will find me a willing partner. I have been consistent in saying that I am prepared to work with them even on a bill that I don't consider perfect. And the Senate bill was a good example of the capacity to compromise and get this done. The only thing I can’t do is stand by and do nothing while waiting for them to get their act together.

And I want to repeat what I said earlier. If House Republicans are really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, the best solution to that is passing bills. Pass a bill; solve a problem. Don't just say no on something that everybody agrees needs to be done. Because if we pass a bill, that will supplant whatever I’ve done administratively. We’ll have a structure there that works, and it will be permanent. And people can make plans and businesses can make plans based on the law. And there will be clarity both here inside this country and outside it.

Let me just close by saying Friday is the Fourth of July. It’s the day we celebrate our independence and all the things that make this country so great. And each year, Michelle and I host a few hundred service members and wounded warriors and their families right here on the lawn for a barbecue and fireworks on the Mall.

And some of the service members coming this year are unique because they signed up to serve, to sacrifice, potentially to give their lives for the security of this country even though they weren’t yet Americans. That's how much they love this country. They were prepared to fight and die for an America they did not yet fully belong to. I think they’ve earned their stripes in more ways than one. And that’s why on Friday morning we’re going to naturalize them in a ceremony right here at the White House. This Independence Day will be their first day as American citizens.

One of the things we celebrate on Friday –- one of the things that make this country great –- is that we are a nation of immigrants. Our people come from every corner of the globe. That's what makes us special. That's what makes us unique. And throughout our history, we’ve come here in wave after wave from everywhere understanding that there was something about this place where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts; that all the different cultures and ideas and energy would come together and create something new.

We won this country’s freedom together. We built this country together. We defended this country together. It makes us special. It makes us strong. It makes us Americans. That’s worth celebrating. And that's what I want not just House Republicans but all of us as Americans to remember. Thanks very much.

END 3:21 P.M. EDT

State of the Commonwealth Spits in the Faces of the CNMI's Nonresidents

June 30, 2014

Governor Eloy Inos made his State of the Commonwealth Address yesterday. It contained the usual highlights – a few lines about the economy, tourism, the Retirement Fund, the military buildup, CHC, infrastructure, education, and the rest. The most interesting part of the address was what was not said.

The governor failed to recognize the contributions and dedication of the thousands of nonresidents who keep the CNMI afloat. No thanks to the people who make up 90% of the private workforce. Not one word.

He did thank U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez for extending the oppressive U.S. CNMI-Only Guest Worker Program for another 5 years. Then he elaborated stating that the CNMI needs to educate its people to take the jobs of the foreign workers when they leave in 2019. The jobs that have been held by the nonresident workers for three and a half decades; the jobs that no locals want to fill.

The governor said:
"We know everyone wants a good job but they also deserve a job that fulfills them and allows them the opportunity to enjoy life without the stress of living paycheck to paycheck."
Was that why the governor and Delegate Sablan fought so hard to delay an increase in the minimum wage? The minimum wage in the CNMI is the lowest federal minimum wage on U.S. soil. It remains a pathetic $5.55 an hour. That wage ensures that the workers struggle from paycheck to paycheck and further reinforces the idea of maintaining an oppressed underclass. Perhaps that poverty level wage is justifiable to the CNMI's leaders as long as the majority of the private sector workers who are earning that pitiful hourly rate are the oppressed, disenfranchised foreign workers.

 The governor said:
"Who better to service our island in the future than the ones who call it home? The ones who were born here, and whose children will call this place home. We need to foster a generation of workers, people with skill, drive, and passion. This may seem like a dramatic scenario for some employers, but I see it as an opportunity to build the CNMI of tomorrow with the hands we’re guiding today. It is through job growth that our people can get themselves and our government out of a financial rut."
"Who better to service our island in the future than the ones who call it home?" The foreign workers who have lived in the CNMI for years and decades call the CNMI their home. Many of them have lived longer in the CNMI than in the countries of their birth.  They are people with "skill, drive and passion." In fact, it is the foreign workers who built the CNMI and keep its economy thriving.

Inos made it clear that after 2019 the nonresidents in the CNMI will leave. He said:
"I have directed the Labor Secretary Edith DeLeon Guerrero to work in conjunction with the Public School System, Northern Marianas College, and other training institutions to develop plans and programs aimed at establishing the citizen workforce we need to fill the labor pool when the extended CW program expires."
Good luck finding "citizens" to do the strenuous labor intensive jobs that they have shunned for decades.

Inos said:
Our Department of Labor, through WIA, has been diligent in making sure that the opportunity for our people to find employment is available and consistent. OVR has done so as well, and so has our Department of Commerce. Through their efforts in developing small businesses, they have created 24 new jobs in the past year. People who thought they couldn’t hold down a job because of limited skills and fear of discrimination are now finding the necessary training they need to live independently.
Actually, the CNMI Department of Labor is violating federal law, not unlike Arizona and other discriminatory states attempted to do. The difference is that the U.S. Department of Justice turns a blind eye to the CNMI. The local Department of Labor has focused on inspecting businesses to demand that they hire a certain percentage of U.S. citizens. They fine businesses for not complying with unconstitutional regulations such as failing to file a declaration with the department's Citizen Job Placement Section. (See this post, AGAIN, U.S. Immigration Law preempts CNMI Law.)

In pleading with U.S. Labor Secretary Perez to extend the faulty CNMI-only Guest Worker Program, Inos, wealthy business owners, and other elected leaders stated that there were not enough U.S. citizens to replace the foreign workers. Newsflash! There will not be enough in 2019 either.

The private sector is made up of over 90% nonresident workers who are disenfranchised and are routinely denied basic civil, human and political rights. They are grossly underpaid, and are often cheated by their employers. If everyone were to be truthful they would admit that the majority of the positions that nonresident workers have filled for decades are not 'temporary' at all. In fact, there are very few U.S. citizens or permanent residents in the CNMI willing to accept many of the low paying, labor intensive jobs that nonresidents fill. That is why they have been renewed annually year after year to fill those positions.

Even if every U.S. citizen who lives in the CNMI were to accept a position that is now filled by a nonresident worker, numerically, there are just not enough U.S. citizens living in the CNMI to fill every one. Furthermore, there are not enough U.S. citizens in the CNMI who have the skills needed to fill many of the positions. That is the reality.

For the governor to ignore the majority of the CNMI's population when making his address emphasizes the fact that the CNMI's legal nonresidents are unappreciated and regarded as mere labor units rather than human beings.

The CNMI does not deserve them.

Another Fitial Ally Arrested

June 27, 2014

Fitial ally, Rose Mondala, former Aging Office Director was arrested on corruption charges related to a 2009 Covenant Party campaign. Her charges include: theft; theft of services; forgery; use of office, staff or employee of public office; violating the restraints on use of public position to obtain benefits or social acquaintances; violating the restraints on use of public supplies, time and personnel for campaign activities; and misconduct in office. It was reported that she used Aging Office funds to support the campaign and to build a fence at her residence.

Numerous government officials were involved in the sketchy 2010 campaign that supported Covenant Party candidate Joseph Camacho, now Associate Judge Camacho, who was running for the U.S. House delegate seat. Although ex-Attorney General Edward Buckingham was charged and found guilty of 2010 campaign-related corruption charges, no charges have been made against other Fitial-appointed officials who were also involved in the controversial campaign. (See this post, Not Buying That This is Okay,  for a list of government employees who hosted Covenant Party events.) Also, implicated in election-related violations was ex-Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Ambrosio Ogumoro who also was never charged.

The corruption trial of ex-governor Benigno Fitial will continue next month. Last week three additional charges were added to the ten he already faces. The additional charges related to the questionable power plant contract that he penned with Saipan Development LLC, include misconduct in office, attempted violation of the Commonwealth Utilities Acts of 2008, and violation of the same 2008 CUC law.

U.S. is Responsible for Roadblocks to Justice for CNMI's Legal Nonresidents

June 25, 2014



Seven years ago I sat with Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and congressional staffer Tony Babauta in her Rayburn House office to plead that the status provision be left in H.R. 3079. Governor Fitial and Guam supremacists, including Guam legislators, were putting pressure on Bordallo to remove the provision. I believed that if the status provision was removed from the bill then getting status for the CNMI's legal, deserving long-term nonresident would be next to impossible.

Both Bordallo and Babauta agreed that it was essential that the bill pass. Both claimed that removing the status provision would make it easier to pass the bill. Two steps they told me – first, get the legislation passed so that the federal government had control of the CNMI's immigration and second, grant status to the CNMI's legal nonresidents.

They assured me that although the status provision would be removed, there would be a provision in the bill mandating that the U.S. Department of Interior make a recommendation to the U.S. Congress regarding a secure status for the nonresident workers. That would ensure that within three years of passage of the legislation the nonresidents would be granted U.S. status, so they said.

H.R. 3079 passed in 2008 becoming U.S. P. L. 110-229, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (CNRA).

Following my meeting with Bordallo and Babuta I continued to appeal to members of Congress to keep the status provision in the legislation. I provided written testimony at the November 7, 2007 markup hearing that I attended with my daughter, Nani. We presented hundreds of letters from the nonresident workers and their children in addition to thousands of signatures on petition pages. The status provision was removed.

Looking back, I now know that both Bordallo and Babuata had told me only what I wanted to hear when promising that status would be granted. Both of them lied to me. Neither of them had any intention of ensuring status for the nonresidents down the road as they had promised.  The delegate would not push for status because her political career was more important to her than the lives of 20,000 nonresident workers. She would not risk the ire of Guam supremacists, which could negatively impact her political career.

Neither would Babauta. In September 2009 Tony Babauta was appointed by President Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary to the U.S. Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs. He was given the perfect opportunity to ensure that status for the CNMI's  nonresidents was granted. He would oversee the 2010 DOI Report on Status for the CNMI Nonresidents that was mandated in the CNRA, P.L. 110-229. The report stated:
"Consistent with the goals of comprehensive immigration reform, we recommend that the Congress consider permitting alien workers who have lawfully resided in the CNMI for a minimum period of five years to apply for long-term status under the immigration and nationality laws of the United States."
If he had pushed for the U.S. Congress to act on the report's 2010 recommendations, it would have happened.  He did not. Like Bordallo, Babauta put his future political career goals ahead of justice and security for the nonresident workers and their families.

In 2010 when the DOI Report was released the Democrats held the House, the Senate and the White House. Granting status would have been ensured if legislation had only been introduced in that time frame. For self-serving political reasons, it was not.

The time to act on legislation to grant U.S. status to the nonresidents was in 2010. No such legislation was introduced.  The perfect window was shut. It would prove to be more difficult and ultimately impossible to get status pushed through after the Republicans gained control of the House.

The nonresident workers should be credited for advancing the economy of the CNMI and for keeping it stable. Remove these workers and their families from the CNMI and the economy collapses. Still, CNMI and  U.S. politicians and officials pushed not for upgraded status, but to extend the problematic CNMI-only Guest Worker Program for another five years. They wanted to ensure the stability of the CNMI's economy while keeping the nonresident workers as the disenfranchised underclass that is denied of basic human and civil rights.

I do not believe it was the intention of the CNRA to keep the nonresidents in the CNMI as subservient minions, as disposable human commodities, as obedient labor units. The intent of the CNRA has been manipulated and perverted by self-serving politicians and their wealthy supporters who fund their re-election campaigns.

In my testimony for the 2007 House Resources Committee Markup Hearing I wrote in part:
Thank you for the opportunity to present my views on H.R. 3079, The Northern Marianas Islands Immigration, Security, and Labor Act. The legislation is long overdue and is welcomed by supporters of human rights, justice, democracy, and freedom. I was deeply distressed when I learned that the House Committee on Natural Resources would remove the already weak provision that would have provided nonimmigrant status to long-term guest workers. 
To remove the “grandfathering” provision from this bill would destroy the integrity of the bill. I have worked to gain justice and rights for the guest workers for over 20 years and have pleaded with the U.S. Congress for 15 years to enforce U.S. laws in the CNMI, increase funding to the CNMI, and to grant the guest workers the political status that they deserve. As far back as the Reagan Administration the federal government has expressed concern about immigration, labor and trade policies being adopted by the CNMI. It declared that the situation “cannot be tolerated” and threatened to recommend to Congress that Federal law be enacted to end the abuses. The Bush and Clinton Administrations also made the same recommendations.  .  . 
 .  .  . The U.S. Congress has failed these people. The inaction over these last two decades has perpetuated the corruption of the CNMI immigration and labor systems. At the same time, the reputation of the United States as the torchbearer of human rights has been shattered in the eyes of the guest workers, their host country governments, and in the eyes of caring people throughout the world. Human rights agencies, host governments, international religious leaders, and the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights have been notified. It is time the U.S. Congress took appropriate and just action to remedy the mistakes of the past and end the cycle of corruption and suffering. The world is watching. . .

. . . Even though the provision to grant non-immigration status to long-term guest workers in this bill falls short of what the long-term guest workers deserve, which is a direct and unobstructed pathway to U.S. citizenship, it is essential that it remain in the legislation. To remove it would be unjust and inhumane to the thousands of foreign contract workers who have been invited to toil on U.S. soil and have been abused, cheated, and subjected to humiliation and discrimination. It would put their U.S. citizen children in a perilous state. The U.S. Congress must take a moral stand for justice, democracy, and human rights and include a provision that provides protective status for the guest workers of the CNMI.
Today it is not primarily the CNMI Government that is to blame for the suffering, uncertainty and hardships of the very people who have dedicated their lives to serving the people of the CNMI, although it certainly plays a role.  It is the U.S. Government that has failed the CNMI nonresidents and continues to fail them.

The U.S. Congress erred in removing the status provision in 2007. It erred in ignoring the 2010 DOI recommendations to grant the nonresidents U.S. status, and it erred in pushing for an extension of the flawed U.S. guest worker program.

In today's Marianas Variety three nonresident worker advocates spoke out about the injustices in the U.S. guest worker program and in the broken promise of U.S. status:
Three of the leaders of the 2007 “Unity march” yesterday said they never anticipated that their support for federalization would adversely affect guest workers and result in their phase-out “like disposable commodities.” 
In separate interviews, guest worker advocates Itos Feliciano, Boni Sagana and Carlito Marquez admitted that what is going on now in the CNMI under federal law is something they never expected to happen. 
“We thought things would get better for us once federalization happened,” Feliciano said. 
“We had high hopes to get improved status. We did not anticipate it would get this bad. There are many of us who have gone out of status already, even those who have children born in the CNMI. We were asking for improved status but many of us got ‘out of status’ instead. 
Maybe soon, the feds will start going after them.” Sagana said: “We did not know it would come to this. Federalization was triggered by the reports of labor abuses here. But now the labor abuse victims are the same people who are gradually being phased out, even those who have U.S. citizen children. So the very people who basically helped make federalization happen became its victims.”
Please take the time to read the entire article. Read also some comments made by ignorant and racist CNMI residents who do not even appreciate the fact that without the nonresident workers their economy would collapse.

The U.S. Government's treatment of the CNMI's legal, nonresident workers is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which it has promoted since its adoption in 1948. Under this international decree, all human beings have the right to freedom of movement. This right is restricted unfairly under the CNMI-only Guest Worker Program.

Under this decree, every human being has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. Currently, the U.S. Congress is being pushed by CNMI elected officials to extend the CNMI's exemption from U.S. asylum laws.

Under this decree, every person has the right to equal access to public service in his country. Many of the CNMI's nonresidents have lived in the CNMI for more years than they have lived in the lands where they were born, yet they are denied equal access to public services in the CNMI. Under the CNMI-only Guest Worker Program they are oppressed, prohibited from enjoying fundamental freedoms and rights, and are maintained as a voiceless underclass that is subject to discrimination and exploitation.

The U.S. Government has had control of the CNMI's immigration since 2008. It can no longer blame the CNMI for the oppression and ill-treatment of the CNMI's nonresidents. It is ultimately the U.S. Government that has failed the CNMI's nonresidents and will be remembered in the pages of history books as perpetuating their suffering. It is the U.S. Government that is responsible for maintaining the nonresidents in a state that is a mere step above slavery, then callously tossing them from their shores like unwanted garbage.

We should consider the value of appealing to self-serving or heartless elected officials and bureaucrats in seeking justice for the CNMI's nonresidents. Any appeals made directly to the American people and the international media may hold more weight. The hypocritical, immoral and indecent treatment that the U.S. Government is displaying towards the CNMI's long-term nonresidents –the CNMI's de facto citizens–  must be condemned.