Not Your Typical Undocumented Immigrants - The Victims of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino

July 28, 2015

Tinian Dynasty, Photo by W. L. Doromal ©2008
Every day in the U.S. we hear people bash undocumented immigrants. From racist presidential candidates headlining the evening news to strangers standing behind you in groceries store lines, none of us can escape a day without hearing someone flippantly put down our country's undocumented immigrants.  Most of the haters have not even met or spoken to any of those people who have entered the U.S. without proper papers seeking a better future or those who have overstayed their visas.  There is a nasty de-humanizing undertone to most of the stories or conversations about "illegal aliens" that invade our ear space.

What we do not hear every day are stories about those who are innocently forced out of status by their own employers –– those unfortunate victims scammed by money-grabbing business owners who care only about their profits and care nothing about the foreign workers who they employ to make their profits. The Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino in Tinian, U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is one such employer.

The Tinian Dynasty has been known for decades for its abuse of foreign workers, including discrimination, unpaid wages, and fraudulent documents.  The foreign workers have been treated like disposable labor units and clearly deserve to be made whole for enduring labor abuses that resulted in extreme suffering as outlined in their amended complaint of July 21, 2015.

The defendants who are former and/or current employees are suing the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino, Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investments, Ltd., and Mega Stars Overseas Limited for fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation, wrongful termination and other related causes of action with respect to the denial of approximately 196 CW-l petitions affecting approximately 520 workers by United States Citizenship and Naturalization Services (“USCIS”) on December 8, 2014.

According to the complaint over 95% of the employees of the Tinian Dynasty were foreign workers on one-year contracts authorized by USCIS.

The Tinian Dynasty employers received numerous notices from USCIS stating that employees' CW-1 permits were in jeopardy of being denied as far back as18 months before USCIS actually denied them.  The employers knew that the foreign workers' job were in jeopardy, but the foreign workers did not.

Obviously, the policies need to be rewritten. USCIS should inform both the employer and the foreign worker if the renewal of a permit is to be revoked or terminated. In not doing so it suggests that USCIS also regards foreign workers as labor units rather than human beings.

The complaint outlines numerous lies that the defendants used to entice the foreign workers to stay, disregarding the workers' best interests. The complaint states that Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investment, Ltd. (HKE) deliberately deceived the foreign workers in the following ways outlined in the complaint:
  • "Deliberately withheld such information from the plaintiffs out of fear they would stop working and transfer to new employers which would have effectively shut down business operations and ultimately cost the Tinian Dynasty a significant amount of money."
  • "Lied to workers about their legal status by falsely claiming they were still legally authorized to work notwithstanding the USCIS denial of their CW-l petitions in a self-interested effort to keep the Tinian Dynasty fully staffed during a particularly critical period of time where defendant HKE was seeking to sublease its gaming and hotel interests to a foreign corporation called “Gain Millennia Limited”. 
  •  "Falsely told workers via letter dated January 19, 2015 that USCIS regulations allowed employees with denied CW-1 petitions to continue working so long as an administrative appeal was pending. According to the January 19, 2015 letter, any worker who “disagreed” with defendant HKE’ s claim that it was “not unlawful” to return to work would be deemed to have “resigned” his/her job and processed out of the company. Additionally, defendant HKE threatened to remove any worker deemed to have “resigned” from the pending administrative appeal filed with the USCIS." 
  • "At the time of this statement, defendant HKE knew that federal immigration regulations prohibited a CW-l worker from continuing employment once his/her CW-1 petition was formally denied. Notwithstanding this fact, defendant HKE threatened to constructively terminate any worker who failed to report to work by Wednesday, January 21, 2015 based on the disingenuous premise that working without legal authorization was “not unlawful”.
  • "Defendant HKE’s use of such heavy handed tactics to bully employees back to work places the plaintiffs in the impossible position where they must choose between a) being fired for not  “agreeing” to work illegally and b) working illegally and risk getting deported for violating their status as well as jeopardizing their chances of obtaining future status." 
  • "On January 30, 2015, defendant HKE issued a letter to each of the named plaintiffs constructively terminating their respective employment for their refusal to return to work without proper USCIS authorization."
  • "In the January 30, 2015 letter, defendant HKE disingenuously claimed that plaintiffs had “resigned” their positions even though none of the plaintiffs had done so."
  • "According to the defendant HKE, plaintiffs were deemed to have “resigned” their  positions solely by the fact they refused to return to work even though their refusal to return to work was because the USCIS had denied their underlying CW-1 petition." 
  • "In the same letter, defendant HKE also followed through on its prior threats and 14 vindictively removed plaintiffs from the pending administrative appeal filed with the USCIS as 15 punishment for their refusal to work illegally."
Exhibits A - C support the complaint and verify that the defendant deliberately lied to the plaintiffs. See: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C.

Defendant Mega Stars also knowingly lied to the plaintiffs. From the complaint:
  • On January 12, 2015, the Chairman of defendant Mega Stars sent the plaintiffs a letter urging all workers to put their “fears aside” and concentrate on the upcoming Baccarat Tournament and Poker Tournament as well as the “very busy Chinese New Year”.
  • According to defendant Mega Stars, plaintiffs should “not be afraid to report for duty as usual” because “in the United States, courts recognize that the immigration laws do not provide for criminal punishment for non-United States citizens who are determined not to have the authorization to work. According to defendant Mega Stars, it would be the employer and not the employee who would be subject to criminal punishment if the plaintiffs returned to work without legal authorization. 
  •  However, defendant Mega Stars conspicuously failed to mention to the plaintiffs the serious immigration consequences that would occur if they worked without legal authorization. Specifically, defendant Mega Stars failed to disclose to the plaintiffs that working without proper legal authorization could subject plaintiffs to deportation as well as disqualification from obtaining future immigration benefits such as adjustment of status or other work related status including a CW-l.
Exhibit D
As a result of the employers' lies these innocent employees have suffered extreme harm. With total disregard to the foreign workers' welfare and the human cost, the employers' corrupt and greedy acts have had a devastating impact on the lives of the foreign workers and their families. As the complaint states the plaintiffs innocently followed the orders of their employers. As a result they have lost the right to live and work in the CNMI, a place that they call home, a place where they have been legal, outstanding law-abiding citizens for years.

More stories will follow.

Below is the amended complaint:

Proud to be an American

July 17, 2015

Over 100 people from Angola to Zimbabwe took the oath of citizenship today in Florida. Boboy's sweet and adorable mom, Clarita was one of them!

The ceremony was far more impressive than the simple one Boboy participated in 20 years earlier.  Each individual stood when their country was read from the long list of names of the countries that they represented. There was moving speech with the new citizens waving their flags and cheering, a video message from President Obama, and music from our national anthem to Lee Greenwood's, Proud to Be An American. Every participant was registered to vote.

It was hard to realize that the individuals leading the ceremony were not professional actors, but were USCIS officials. They rocked!

The best part of the event was the pride and joy that overflowed from the room. Boboy's mom told us how she got every question on the citizenship test correct. That's not an easy feat. I give that test to my students every year as an introduction to a unit on immigration. Most score horribly. Not Clarita - she rattled off the questions and answers. She told us how the official smiled as she sang The Star Spangled Banner to him. 

Family and friends took photos of the ceremony and event. Some who were unaccompanied handed me their cell phones to take their photos. All were the same –broad smiles and tears of joy as they held up the American flag.

For too much of the time I am am angry at my country. Angry that the elected officials do not understand how student loans are burying our young people under mountains of debt; how millions of us work many overtime hours and are not being paid for them; how politicians are destroying our public schools; how our broken immigration system is hurting families and our nation; and on and on. I cannot remember the last time I was actually proud to be an American. Today I was.


Saipan is Cut Off From the World

July 11, 2015

I wondered why both the Marianas Variety and the Saipan Tribune were frozen in time -stuck on July 8th (July 7th in the mainland). Then I saw a tweet from Angelo also wondering why the CNMI was unreachable.

It seems the fiber optic cable to the CNMI had snapped between Tinian and Saipan after midnight on July 8th. It could take more than two weeks to repair depending on the extent of the damage.

No ATMs, no internet, no telephone and no regular flights in or out of the islands. The Pacific Daily News reported that on Friday United Airlines provided an aircraft with satellite technology to fly between Saipan and Guam.

There is only one fiber optic cable to the CNMI. It was installed in 1997. Guam is linked to multiple systems, a choice made by the government to prevent  the very disaster that has occurred in Saipan - being technologically cutoff from the world with economic consequences.

Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno from The Pacific Daily News reported:
In the CNMI, the local government had an opportunity to use federal economic stimulus funds for a second undersea cable, said Guam telecommunications consultant Bob Kelly. 
Kelly said the CNMI government rejected his suggestion, so when the recent CNMI undersea cable break occurred, he said he wasn't surprised by what he called the "single point of failure," which had the effect of shutting the entire Saipan economy from the rest of the world.
It must be extremely frustrating for the residents, business owners and tourists. If anything, this shows how vulnerable we are when it comes to technology. The CNMI needs to get connected!

Inos Commutes Fitial's Sentence

July 5, 2015

As predicted, CNMI Governor Eloy Inos commuted the sentence of his buddy, disgraced ex-Governor Benigno Fitial.

No surprise. Both governors have been partners in crime for decades. From their work in Tan's sleazy garment factories that led to oppression of innocent foreign garment workers, to their unethical involvement with felon lobbyist Jack Abramoff, to numerous instances of cronyism, election fraud, and other schemes that repeatedly broke the public trust.

The governor stated:
“Our society is unique in that it is like any metropolitan city on the mainland. We are comprised of small islands and it is in our culture to be compassionate toward each other. 
It is also in our culture not to claim victory or take joy in the fall of our citizens. We are taught to not let the bad outweigh the good and to look at a person’s entire contribution to our society and not just a small piece.”
That has to be one of the most disingenuous statements ever to be uttered by a CNMI leader. "It is our culture to be compassionate to each other"?

Where was the compassion towards the legal, longterm foreign workers who built the CNMI, who paved the roads, constructed the buildings, nursed the sick, and are the backbone of the tourist industry? There was none. Fitial, Inos and other 'compassionate' Covenant Party leaders of the CNMI went into hate mode when the 2010 recommendation from the U.S. Department of Interior came out. The recommendation that called for the legal, long-term nonresidents to be granted a pathway to citizenship.

Were their anti-alien rallies compassionate? How about the ugly remarks? The sickening testimony? The xenophobic protests? Compassionate? Anything but.

 Is this compassionate governor penning commutations for those prisoners who committed far less vile crimes than Benigno Fitial? Of course not!  His selective 'compassion' is repulsive.

Corrupt Inos Orchestrates Pardon for His Pal Fitial

June 30, 2015

CNMI Governor Eloy Inos, best buddy of corrupt ex-governor Benigno Fitial, arranged for his pardon two days before his June 24, 2015 sentencing hearing.

It seems the dynamic duo had their 'no days in jail' plan in play even before Associate Judge David Wiseman issued the one year, 30 day sentence to the disgraced ex-governor.

Yesterday in a mockery of justice, the Parole Board allowed residents to submit letters. This appears to be another orchestrated event planned by Governor Inos to get the people behind his despicable act.  After all this is not a parole hearing. Fitial never spent a day in jail. It is a pardon, which the governor has the power to execute.

Yesterday the Board of Parole arranged for residents to go to the Multi-Purpose Center to drop off their letters expressing their opinion on the pardon.  Then, as expected, the Board of Parole voted to support a commutation of Fitial's jail sentence.

There could have been 300 letters opposing the pardon and 50 supporting it, and the board still would have voted the same way. This was all pre-planned. The criminal was to be pardoned even before he plead guilty to the two counts.

Perhaps Fitial threatened all of his cronies that he would spend his days in prison writing a tell-all book to expose their collusion, corruption and crime.  Perhaps Governor Inos feels a sense of loyalty to his corrupt brother in crime. Whatever the reason, justice will not be served when this criminal is pardoned.

Fitial Likely Won't Spend A Day in Jail

June 27, 2015

Disgraced ex-governor Benigno Fitial's prison sentence seemed far too lenient for many.

After all,  his unethical scheming, in-your-face acts of corruption, and "flagrant display of abuse of authority" span decades. From stories of promoting prostitution in his now-closed nightclub, Orchids - to back-door deals with Jack Abramoff - to freeing a federal prisoner for a late night massage - to illegal election activities - to penning illegal contracts with pals - to helping his criminal ex-Attorney General Buckingham escape the CNMI to avoid imprisonment, tales of this guy's unethical and criminal activity could fill a book.

His acts of hate are also memorable. Who can forget an angry Fitial shouting, "Go home!" to legal foreign workers as they gathered outside of a Congressional Hearing that was held on Saipan? Or using government time and money to organize anti-immigrant rallies where racist ideals were promoted? Or scheming with Guamanian cronies to get the pathway to citizenship removed from the CNRA?

One year? Far too short, but it certainly sends a message that corrupt politicians may not get away with their crimes. A deterrent? Maybe, if he actually spends time behind bars.

We should not be surprised that Fitial's attorney, Steven Nutting, is asking for an extension to his July, 6, 2015 deadline to report to prison.

We also expect his lifelong pal, Governor Eloy Inos to pardon him. After all, they were the dynamic dual scheming with Willie Tan and Jack Abramoff oh so many years ago. Their schemes cost the CNMI $11 million in lobbying fees and a tarnished reputation.

For a term of one year, Fitial would be eligible to apply for parole after spending one-third of his sentence or 122 days in jail. Let him spend at least that long and have the time to reflect on the harm that he did, the trust that he breached and the people that were hurt by his corrupt acts.

Transcript of his sentencing:

The Saipan Tribune reports that Ramon B. Camacho placed a newspaper ad yesterday announcing  a pardon hearing to be held from June 30 - July 1, 2015 at 9:00am at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe. He claims an individual requested the hearing, but he refuses to reveal who this person is. (Inos? Nutting? Fitial?)

From the Saipan Tribune:
In the announcement, Camacho said the board will be considering whether to support or object to a pardon for Fitial. 
Camacho said after hearing public testimony and discussing the matter, the board will then vote on whether to support or object to Gov. Eloy S. Inos’ issuance of a pardon. 
The chairman urged anyone wishing to submit a written statement to the board for its consideration may do so by dropping it off in person at the Board of Parole Office on Capitol Hill prior to the June 30 hearing.
So slick, so typical of those in power in the CNMI. Hold a pardon hearing so Governor Inos doesn't look so bad for pardoning his lifelong friend? When has such a hearing been held before for any criminal?

I also love the fact that a statement has to be dropped off in person. No long-distance views are welcome, thank you very much.

Anyone can predict the ending to this story. The criminal will walk. And as he leaves the commonwealth a free bird, Fitial will likely toss the cane, flash his Cheshire Cat smile (or is it the Joker smile?) and laugh at the victims left behind.

America Is Changing Its Colors

June 26, 2015

About time!