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!

Saipan Casino Jobs Offered to U.S. Citizens: Those Living in Atlantic City, NJ

June 26, 2015

CNMI Department of Labor Secretary Edith DeLeon Guerrero has spoken out over the last few months with the message that the CNMI will not have enough skilled workers to replace the foreign workers who will return to their homelands in 2019 when the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program ends. She also stated that there are not enough funds to train the CNMI's U.S. citizens to replace those workers. Her message was given to U.S. Department of Interior's Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs, Esther Kia'aina, to the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary Club.

It appears the CNMI politicians are posturing to pressure the U.S. Congress to renew the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program that was to be phased out in 2019 so that U.S. immigration laws applied to the CNMI.

Political leaders in the CNMI know that the legal, longtime foreign workers are essential to maintaining a strong economy and filling positions from accountants, to nurses to hotel clerks. Still they refuse to push for them to be granted a pathway to citizenship, even though they are essential community members and de facto citizens since they have lived legally in the CNMI 5, 10, 15 even 20 or more years. Many fear that giving the disenfranchised legal foreign workers a pathway to citizen would mean giving them the right to vote and could weaken their political control since the natives have been a minority in their islands for decades. (Due to the fact that they brought in tens of thousands of foreign workers.)

Well, let these politicians welcome 200 or so U.S. citizens who will have a vote.
Saipan's Best Sunshine Casino is hiring an estimated 180 U.S. casino workers -dealers, cashiers and shift managers. Perhaps some of these positions are ones that locals could have been trained to fill.

According to a New article, perks will include free travel, insurance, a meal on every shift and free housing:
Renard International Hospitality Search held a job fair Wednesday and will run another one Thursday at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, the report said. 
Anyone willing to uproot to the U.S. Commonwealth in the Northern Mariana Islands by July 10 to help open the casino is also being offered a signing bonus. Pay starts at $40,000 for dealers; supervisors can earn from $45,000-$75,000.
Press of Atlantic City reports:
Renard International Hospitality Search Consultants is looking to fill at least 180 jobs — but probably more — at Saipan’s Best Sunshine International Casino. So Stephen Renard and several associates are in Atlantic City holding a job fair from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Thursday to recruit people to staff a casino scheduled to open July 15.
On June 18, 2015 businessman Norman Tenorio was quoted as saying that the casino could be a good thing for the CNMI since it would provide jobs. From the Marianas Variety:
“In the past the government was able to provide jobs for just about everybody, but now the casino, hopefully, will provide good jobs for everybody,” Tenorio said, adding that he is encouraging locals to apply for the jobs that Best Sunshine, the Saipan casino investor, is offering.
It seems local workers were offered an opportunity to apply for some of the jobs and 200 applied for the estimated 500 jobs offered.

 One commenter on the MV story stated:
To the elected officials who gave courtesy to apply for a jobs at Best Sunshine. Let me tell you straight, my friends who are all U.S. Citizens submitted their resumes, including scheduled interviews and followed-ups, but Best Sunshine is not responding to their emails. Wake up Legislators, because few casino workers are coming in from the Philippines in a few weeks. I've seen a key employee (Manager) from Tinian Dynasty in Garapan this week.
It will be interesting to see how this 'casino industry' plays out. The CNMI initially attempted to build their economy with the garment industry. That endeavor did more to establish the reputation of the CNMI as human rights violator than it did to provide locals with jobs or build the economy. Will the casino industry be another green flash?