Three Judge Panel Stalls President Obama's Immigration Plan

May 27, 2015

President Obama's efforts to provide some type of immigration relief to the millions of undocumented aliens hit a detour yesterday as the federal appeals court refused to allow the administrative plan to proceed. Three judges from the District 5 U.S. Court of Appeals in  New Orleans voted 2 - 1 to refuse a stay to an order that blocked the action.

In November 2014 President Obama introduced executive action to halt deportations of some categories of undocumented aliens. This was a response to the do-nothing Congress had failed to act on immigration reform.

The executive action was challenged in court by Texas and 25 other conservative states that claimed that the action was unconstitutional.

From The Boston Herald:
A three-judge panel yesterday refused to allow President Obama’s amnesty plan — which shields up to 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation — to take effect. The plan had been on hold since a Texas judge issued a preliminary injunction against it in February. 
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton earlier this month called for an even broader amnesty plan that would include a path to citizenship for parents of what liberals call “Dreamers” — children illegally brought to the United States at an early age who have usually gone through public schools.
White House spokesperson, Brandi Hoffine made clear that the Obama Administration disagreed with the ruling. The Obama Administration will file an appeal:
"As the powerful dissent from Judge [Stephen] Higginson recognizes, President Obama's immigration executive actions are fully consistent with the law," said White House spokesperson Brandi Hoffine. 
"The president's actions were designed to bring greater accountability to our broken immigration system, grow the economy, and keep our communities safe." Hoffine said Obama's action are "squarely within the bounds of his authority" and are "the right thing to do" for the nation. 
"Fifteen states and the District of Columbia, business leaders, local law enforcement and elected officials, educators, faith leaders, legal scholars, and others have all asked the courts to allow these actions to move forward, given the important economic and public safety benefits," she said.

Hillary Offers Hope to Immigrants

May 8, 2015

Immigration has been called the civil rights issue of today, but it has been pushed to the back of the bus by partisan politics and a divisive Congress.

The Obama Administration has made attempts to help our country's undocumented immigrants with executive orders and prosecutorial discretion. Over 5 million are impacted by these actions, mostly young immigrants who were illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents.

If elected President, Hillary Clinton said that she would provide relief for the parents of these children. Clinton addressed immigrants in Nevada yesterday:
Clinton explained that there “are many more people” with deep ties to communities and a history of service who should have access to “the same deferred action” status as people already protected under Obama’s programs known as DACA and DAPA. 
“But that’s just the beginning. There’s much more to do expand and enhance protections for families and communities,” she continued. She even wove in some of the new populism of her second presidential bid, contrasting immigrations with corporations and private prisons. “Our undocumented immigrants in New York pay more in taxes than some of our biggest corporations,” she said of her home state. “We have to reform our detention system,” she added, noting that many detention centers are run by private companies who “have a built in-incentive to fill them up.”
If there is a group of deserving immigrants ignored by Washington who deserves an immediate pathway to citizenship it is the legal, long-term nonresidents of the CNMI.

Talk about "deep ties to communities" - some of the nonresident workers in the CNMI have spent most of their adult lives there. Many have lived longer in the CNMI than in their homelands. Most of these dedicated workers have no "homes" to return to.  Why should any legal immigrant who has spent 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 or more years on U.S. soil while maintaining legal status not be afforded a pathway to citizenship?

Most Americans do not even know about the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, never mind the purgatory-type status that they hold. However, Former President Bill Clinton knows the issue of the CNMI nonresident workers. It was under his Administration that I led a 7-member team to document the status and abuses of the nonresident workers. (See this report.)

Hillary Clinton may be the answer for achieving long overdue justice for the legal, nonresident workers in the CNMI.

CNMI Corruption

April 14, 2015

In recent weeks a number of Rota officials and residents have been arrested by the CNMI Public Corruption and White Collar Crimes Task Force.

Rowena Barcinas, a former Rota procurement officer, was arrested for theft by unlawful taking or disposition, conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking or disposition, and removal of government property. Her husband, Andrew A. Barcinas was arrested for receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking or disposition. The couple was in possession of a government-owned jeep Cherokee.

Tina M. Atalig, former secretary of then-Mayor Melchor Mendiola, Alfred M. Apatang, former field supervisor of then-Mayor Mendiola, and StaceyAnn Manglona Atlaig, former Rota Finance Resident Director all face charges of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking or disposition, and misuse of government property. The property reportedly includes laptops and a typewriter.

Josepha Barcinas, Resident Director of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs was charged with theft, conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking or disposition, and removal of government property. It was reported that she allegedly traded a government table worth $1,000 for cinder blocks to build her kitchen.

An arrest warrant has also been issued for former Mayor Melchor Mendiola who reportedly had 9 government owned (picnic?) tables at his residence.

Corruption cases filed by the CNMI Government rarely result in serious consequences. Case in point, ex-Attorney General Edward Buckingham is enjoying retirement in Colorado after being found guilty on serious corruption charges. 

Ex-governor Benigno Fitial is facing four re-instated corruption charges, but his attorney and the CNMI attorney George Hassleback have asked for a continuation of the trial "to hold talks to resolve the case."

In other words we can expect Fitial to face no real consequences for years of despicable acts.

It seems that when the Federal Government files the charges, as was the case against ex-Lt. Governor Timothy Villagomez and the Santos couple, the consequences have teeth. However, when the CNMI Government files charges, those involved in corruption can expect a little more than a slap on the hand.

Time will tell. . .

Selma 50 Years Later

March 8, 2015

Bloody Sunday was remembered this weekend as President Obama and his family, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and about 100 members of Congress joined thousands of Americans who descended on Selma, Alabama.

Fifty years ago on March 7, 1965 Alabama State troopers attacked over 600 nonviolent protests who were crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their way to Montgomery to advocate for voting rights and the end to segregation.

Fifty years after Bloody Sunday, police brutality continues across America and our country continues to have racial divides. Immigration reform is called the civil rights movement of today. President Obama's speech in Selma touched on these issues. His speech is probably his best ever:

It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes. And John Lewis is one of my heroes.

Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning fifty years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind. A day like this was not on his mind. Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about. Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked. A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones. The air was thick with doubt, anticipation, and fear. They comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:

No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you; Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.

Then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, a book on government – all you need for a night behind bars – John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.

President Bush and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Members of Congress, Mayor Evans, Reverend Strong, friends and fellow Americans:

There are places, and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war – Concord and Lexington, Appomattox and Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character – Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.

Selma is such a place.

In one afternoon fifty years ago, so much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher – met on this bridge.

It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America.

And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. King, and so many more, the idea of a just America, a fair America, an inclusive America, a generous America – that idea ultimately triumphed.

As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation. The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.

We gather here to celebrate them. We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching toward justice.

They did as Scripture instructed: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” And in the days to come, they went back again and again. When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came – black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope. A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing. To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet.

In time, their chorus would reach President Johnson. And he would send them protection, echoing their call for the nation and the world to hear:

“We shall overcome.”

What enormous faith these men and women had. Faith in God – but also faith in America.

The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities – but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.

What they did here will reverberate through the ages. Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible; that love and hope can conquer hate.

As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them. Back then, they were called Communists, half-breeds, outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse – everything but the name their parents gave them. Their faith was questioned. Their lives were threatened. Their patriotism was challenged.

And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?

What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people – the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many – coming together to shape their country’s course?

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?

That’s why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience. That’s why it’s not a museum or static monument to behold from a distance. It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents:

“We the People…in order to form a more perfect union.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

These are not just words. They are a living thing, a call to action, a roadmap for citizenship and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny. For founders like Franklin and Jefferson, for leaders like Lincoln and FDR, the success of our experiment in self-government rested on engaging all our citizens in this work. That’s what we celebrate here in Selma. That’s what this movement was all about, one leg in our long journey toward freedom.

The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge is the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot and workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon.

It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what’s right and shake up the status quo.

That’s what makes us unique, and cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity. Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down a wall. Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid. Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule. From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world’s greatest superpower, and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom.

They saw that idea made real in Selma, Alabama. They saw it made real in America.

Because of campaigns like this, a Voting Rights Act was passed. Political, economic, and social barriers came down, and the change these men and women wrought is visible here today in the presence of African-Americans who run boardrooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities; from the Congressional Black Caucus to the Oval Office.

Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors. Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past.

What a glorious thing, Dr. King might say.

What a solemn debt we owe.

Which leads us to ask, just how might we repay that debt?

First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough. If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done – the American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.

Selma teaches us, too, that action requires that we shed our cynicism. For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.

Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country. I understand the question, for the report’s narrative was woefully familiar. It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement. But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom; and before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.

We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress – our progress – would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.

Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character – requires admitting as much.

“We are capable of bearing a great burden,” James Baldwin wrote, “once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.”

This is work for all Americans, and not just some. Not just whites. Not just blacks. If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel, as they did, the fierce urgency of now. All of us need to recognize, as they did, that change depends on our actions, our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such effort, no matter how hard it may seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.

With such effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some. Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on – the idea that police officers are members of the communities they risk their lives to protect, and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland just want the same thing young people here marched for – the protection of the law. Together, we can address unfair sentencing, and overcrowded prisons, and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads, and workers, and neighbors.

With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity. Americans don’t accept a free ride for anyone, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity, and if we really mean it, if we’re willing to sacrifice for it, then we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts their sights and gives them skills. We can make sure every person willing to work has the dignity of a job, and a fair wage, and a real voice, and sturdier rungs on that ladder into the middle class.

And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge – and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor.

How can that be? The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic effort. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President Bush signed its renewal when he was in office. One hundred Members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right it protects. If we want to honor this day, let these hundred go back to Washington, and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year.

Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or the President alone. If every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we’d still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?

Fellow marchers, so much has changed in fifty years. We’ve endured war, and fashioned peace. We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives, and take for granted convenience our parents might scarcely imagine. But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship, that willingness of a 26 year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five, to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise.

That’s what it means to love America. That’s what it means to believe in America. That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional.

For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea – pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, entrepreneurs and hucksters. That’s our spirit.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some; and we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth. That’s our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free – Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We are the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because they want their kids to know a better life. That’s how we came to be.

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South. We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent, and we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, Navajo code-talkers, and Japanese-Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, and the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We are the gay Americans whose blood ran on the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge.

We are storytellers, writers, poets, and artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We are the inventors of gospel and jazz and the blues, bluegrass and country, hip-hop and rock and roll, our very own sounds with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of, who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”

We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American as others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for it. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe age of 25 could lead a mighty march.

And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day. You are America. Unconstrained by habits and convention. Unencumbered by what is, and ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.

Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.

Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.

Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished. But we are getting closer. Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding, our union is not yet perfect. But we are getting closer. Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile. Somebody already got us over that bridge. When it feels the road’s too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.”

We honor those who walked so we could run. We must run so our children soar. And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.

May He bless those warriors of justice no longer with us, and bless the United States of America.

Texas Judge Delays Executive Immigration Actions

February 17, 2015

Texas Federal Judge Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas, ruled that President Obama's executive actions exceeded his authority.

In his 123 page opinion  Hanen stated that the failure of DHS to allow public comment on the new policies violated the law.

President Obama said that the administration will appeal the court order, which was scheduled to go into affect tomorrow.

Twenty-five states joined the Texas lawsuit, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Statement by Secretary Jeh C. Johnson Concerning the District Court’s Ruling Concerning DAPA and DACA 
I strongly disagree with Judge Hanen’s decision to temporarily enjoin implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Department of Justice will appeal that temporary injunction; in the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it. Accordingly, the Department of Homeland Security will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA tomorrow, February 18, as originally planned. Until further notice, we will also suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA. 
The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts and even other courts have said that our actions are well within our legal authority. Our actions will also benefit the economy and promote law enforcement. We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do. 
It is important to emphasize what the District Court’s order does not affect. The Court’s order does not affect the existing DACA. Individuals may continue to come forward and request initial grant of DACA or renewal of DACA pursuant to the guidelines established in 2012. 
Nor does the Court’s order affect this Department’s ability to set and implement enforcement priorities. The priorities established in my November 20, 2014 memorandum entitled “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants” remain in full force and effect. Pursuant to those enforcement priorities, we continue to prioritize public safety, national security, and border security. I am pleased that an increasing percentage of removals each year are of those convicted of crimes. I am also pleased that, due in large part to our investments in and prioritization of border security, apprehensions at the southern border – a large indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally -- are now at the lowest levels in years.

What the California Senate Did

February 15, 2015

In an unanimous, bipartisan vote, the California State Senate passed a resolution "to be sent to the President and the Vice President of the United States, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to the Majority Leader of the Senate, and to each Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the United States."

The resolution calls for "Congress and the President of the United States to work together to create a comprehensive and workable approach to reform the nation's immigration system according to specified principles." It was written by Republican Senator Andy Vidak.

The language of the resolution is in sharp contrast from the anti-immigrant trash talk that spews from the mouths of too many vocal Republican and Tea Party anti-immigrant haters.  The resolution recognizes the economic contribution of the immigrants.  It not only calls for comprehensive immigration reform, but for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented aliens.

Will the hardline Republican members of the U.S. Congress take notice? That is unlikely since immigration reform does not fit into their agenda. Their is only one item on their agenda – that is to oppose anything that President Obama supports and support anything that he opposes.

Still the resolution is significant. It comes from the state that has the most undocumented immigrants. For anyone who wants to listen its message is clear.

The Resolution:

     WHEREAS, This country was built by immigrants seeking a better life; and        WHEREAS, Estimates suggest that there are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows in the United States, including millions of children brought to this country undocumented who have grown up here and call the United States home, and who are suffering from our dysfunctional immigration policy; and
      WHEREAS, A logical and streamlined path to citizenship for individuals after they gain legal status would stimulate the economy by allowing these individuals to get college degrees and driver's licenses, buy homes, start new companies, and create legal, tax-paying jobs, affording them a chance at the American Dream; and
      WHEREAS, The United States Congress last enacted major immigration legislation more than 25 years ago; and
      WHEREAS, Since that time, fragmented attempts at immigration reform have failed to create the rational and effective systems needed to maintain international competitiveness. Whether in industries like agriculture, which requires large numbers of workers able to perform physically demanding tasks, or in industries like technology or health care, where the demand for employees with advanced degrees is projected to exceed supply within the next five years, immigration policy must be designed to respond to emerging labor needs in all sectors of the United States economy; and
      WHEREAS, Our national interests and security are not served by our outdated, inefficient, and slow-moving immigration system. Patchwork attempts to mend its deficiencies undermine our potential for prosperity and leave us vulnerable and unable to meet the needs of the modern world; and
     WHEREAS, Labor mobility is crucial to our economic prosperity and our country's recovery from the economic crisis. Yet our rigid, outdated immigration policies are making it difficult for our companies and our nation to compete. Information released in a study by the University of California, Los Angeles, states that legalizing the status of undocumented immigrants working and living in the United States would create around $1.5 trillion in additional gross domestic product growth over the next 10 years and increase wages for all workers. A study done by the University of California, Davis, indicates that the last large wave of immigrants, from 1990 to 2007, raised the income of a native-born American worker by an average of $5,000; and
       WHEREAS, California has the largest share of immigrants in the country. These immigrants are a vital and productive part of our state's economy and are active in a variety of industries, including technology, biotech, hospitality, agriculture, construction, services, transportation, and textiles. They also represent a large share of our new small business owners and create economic prosperity and needed jobs for everyone; and
      WHEREAS, Keeping these families, business owners, and hard workers in the shadows of society serves no one; and
      WHEREAS, Our state, for economic, social, health, security, and prosperity reasons, must support policies that allow individuals to become legal and enfranchised participants in our society and economy; and
      WHEREAS, Comprehensive immigration reform should include a reasonable and timely path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are already living and working in the United States. It should also include comprehensive background checks, require demonstrated proficiency in English and payment of all current and back taxes, and have the flexibility to respond to emerging business trends; and
      WHEREAS, The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C., estimates that in 2012, the federal government spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement, and since 2004, the number of United States Border Patrol agents has doubled; and
     WHEREAS, Increased enforcement has given the federal government the ability to prioritize the deportation of lawbreakers and dangerous individuals and to ensure our border's security. Nevertheless, this enforcement should not be done in an inhumane way; and
      WHEREAS, Immigration enforcement should continue to focus on criminals, not on hardworking immigrant families, and not at the expense of efficient trade with two of our top three economic partners; and
     WHEREAS, The United States loses large numbers of necessary, highly skilled workers due to the lengthy and complicated processes currently in place to get or keep a legal residency option; and
     WHEREAS, Reform should include an expedited process for those residing abroad and applying for legal visas. Additionally, reform should offer permanent residency opportunities to international students in American universities who are highly trained and in high demand, and in so doing avoid an intellectual vacuum after their graduation; and
     WHEREAS, Reform should recognize the societal and cultural benefits of keeping the family unit intact. The system should take into account special circumstances surrounding candidates for probationary legal status, such as those of minors who were brought to the country as children or workers whose labor is essential to maintain our country's competitiveness; now, therefore, be it be
     Resolved by the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California, jointly,
That the Legislature urges the President and the Congress of the United States to work together and create a comprehensive and workable approach to solving our nation's historically broken immigration system, using the principles described in this resolution; and be it further
      Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the President and the Vice President of the United States, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to the Majority Leader of the Senate, and to each Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the United States.

500 Tinian Dynasty Workers Sue Their Employer

February 4, 2015

Photo by W. L. Doromal ©2008

Attorney Samuel Mok is representing over 500 Tinian Dynasty workers in a lawsuit filed in federal court on February 4, 2015 against Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investment (Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino) and Mega Stars Overseas Unlimited. The employees are seeking relief for fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation, wrongful 13 termination.

The complaint states:
Defendants knew at least eighteen months before December 8, 2014 that their respective CW-l employment petitions were in jeopardy of being denied by virtue of numerous written warnings issued by the USCIS in the form of notices of intent to deny and notices of intent to revoke.  
However, defendants 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. 
Defendants also 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”.
The complaint:


Two exhibits attached to the complaint make clear that the employer defrauded and lied to the employees.  Even though USCIS had notified the company that the CW-1 permits were denied, the company falsely told employees that they were in legal status to work.

The complaint details a letter sent to employees by Hong Kong Entertainment:
According to the January 19, 2015 letter, any worker who “disagreed” with defendant 18 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. (Exhibit A) 
Additionally, defendant HIKE threatened to remove any worker deemed to have “resigned” from the pending administrative appeal filed with the USCIS. (Exhibit A) 
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. 
It is amazing that this was put in writing! Read the letter signed by HR Director Florine Hofschneider:

Mega Stars also misled the employees. A January 12, 2015 letter to employees from by Mega Stars chairman, Wai Chan, also misled employees and urged them to defy USCIS regulations and break the law by continuing to work. The letter:
Dear Colleagues, 
In these days I understand that everyone is concerned about the CW issue. It is a fact that it is so bothering because it threatens your legitimate working status in CNMI. Though that the employees filed a lawsuit in court to challenge USCIS’s decision for denying everyone’s CW status, and the company also filed the appeals within the dead line of 30 days from the denial letter date in Phoenix. These are the 2 things the company can do to protect both the company and all the employees within our allowed limitation. It is too early to see the results can turn our situation any better at this moment. 
However, I am still optimistic. I am optimistic not because I lack knowledge to assess the risk of the current situation or just simply ignore it.I am optimistic because I can see the people in CNMI are supporting us, and they want us to go on with our business. With an immediately passed joint resolution from the House of Representatives and The Senate 2 days before Christmas to request the USCIS to reconsider the denial of our CW petitions, we can see that we are not alone in this challenge and believe that USCIS would not ignore the domino effect caused by the shutdown of Tinian Dynasty. Though I understand that Tinian Dynasty has a record of delaying staff’s salary in the past and that is also one of the reasons by USCIS in the denial of our CW petitions. But that is no longer the case since I took over the management of Tinian Dynasty and you all know that is true. 
Another reason for the denial of your CW petition was the criminal case charged against Tinian Dynasty. According to our attorney that it is not appropriate for USCIS to deny our CW petitions at this point because the case has not gone to trial and there has not yet been any jury decision that the company is guilty or not guilty. The case should be finalized within the next two or three months as it set for trial on February 9, 2015. 
And today, what matter the most is, I will not give up! Currently I am asking my managers to concentrate in preparation of the upcoming events such as Baccarat Tournament and Poker Tournament. And we have to be ready for a very busy Chinese New Year. To do this we have to put our fears aside. In fact if you understand the truth, you will not be afraid to report for duty as usual. At this point you should also know that 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. In the case of Arizona vs. Unites States, 132 S. Ct. 2492, 2504, 183 L. ED. 2d 351 (2012) the United States Supreme Court said that “Congress made a deliberate choice not to impose criminal penalties on aliens who seek, or engage in, unauthorized employment.” Instead, any criminal punishment for such a circumstance is imposed upon the employer. Remember I am the Chairman of the corporation to hire you and let you work under this situation, and I may suffer with tremendous fines and possible prison penalty. But I am still willing to continue working here and pursue all legal means to prevent the injustice USCIS is trying to inflict on you, Tinian and the company continue to support me and the company in this effort. 
Sincerely yours, 
Wai Chan
It's encouraging that an attorney filed this case. I hope that the employees win this lawsuit. They are victims of a self-serving employer who clearly deceived them. By withholding information on their immigration status, the employer put the nonresident workers at risk of deportation and jeopardized their ability to get other U.S. work permits or upgraded status in the future.

Four Charges Reinstated against Ex-Governor Fitial

February 2, 2015

Associate Judge David Wiseman has reinstated four of the corruption charges against Ex-Governor Benigno Fitial.

Wiseman's November  6, 2014 dismissal order ruled that the Office of the Public Auditor has no authority to file the charges against Fitial, who was no longer governor, but was a private citizen when the charges were filed. He stated that the CNMI Attorney General retains prosecutorial authority over such an action when the defendant is not currently in office. OPA filed 13 charges against Fitial.

The Marianas Variety reported:
In his seven-page order, Judge Wiseman said the charges conspiracy to commit theft of services, two counts of misconduct in public office, and theft of services “shall remain pending charges of adjudication,” referring to the “armed escort” extended to Buckingham from his hotel up to the restricted areas in the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.

Dismissed without prejudice were charges involving former CNMI Department of Commerce Secretary Michael Ada’s contract of services related to the use of ARRA funds, the release of a female federal detainee from the CNMI Department of Corrections so she could give a massage to then-governor at his Gualo Rai residence to relieve what Fitial described as severe back pains on the early morning of Jan. 8, 2010, and the no-bid $190 million power-purchase agreement entered into between Fitial and Delaware-based Saipan Development LLC.