Toxic Spending Bill Passes Senate: Good news for CNMI investors, bad news for our country

December 14, 2014


One of the worst spending bills in U.S. history passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 56- 40. How bad is it? It is a Christmas present to Wall Street and the rich. The spending bill had a provision that was written by Citicorp that repeals the Frank-Dodd bill so taxpayers will once again get to pay for any risky investments Wall Street and big banks make.  When banks make risky investments, the taxpayers will pay the bill.

The bill also increased the amount an individual can donate to a campaign 10 times, from $32,400 to $324,000. It's not like this country isn't already run by lobbyists and the rich. This bill gives them an even stronger voice.

But wait, there's more! Pell grants to college students will be cut. Who gets that money? Why, the private student loan contractors who have been screwing students.  The bill ends a 40 year old honorable agreement with workers. It will allow trustees to cut the pensions of the retired.

Our highways will be more unsafe. The bill allows truck drivers to work 82-hour weeks without a requirement for two days of rest, as safety advocates wanted.

But wait, there's more! The bill funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) only until February 27, 2015. Other agencies are funded through September 30, 2015. That was an attack on the recent executive order to provide immigration relief to a variety of categories of undocumented workers.

The bill blocks the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing some clean water act regulations in agricultural areas. It excluded the sage grouse from the endangered species list. It blocks energy efficient standards that would have gotten rid of energy sucking incandescent bulbs.

The Women Infants and Children program now has a requirement for white potatoes. (Good job potato lobbyists.)

You won't read about any of these poison pill provisions if you live in the CNMI. You will be celebrating the fact that the E2-C visa holders, 261 foreign investors, can stay in the CNMI without any pathway to citizenship for another 5 years. You can toss confetti because the CNMI will be exempt from U.S. asylum laws for 5 more years and Guam and the CNMI will be exempt from the H visa cap allowing for more temporary foreign workers.

Voting against the bill were the following Democrats: Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and  Ron Wyden (D-OR).

H.R. 83 Passes the U.S. House

November 12, 2014

Yesterday the U.S House passed H.R. 83 by a vote of 219 to 206. There were 162 Republicans who voted for the bill  and 57 Democrats who backed it. It was included as part of the year-end budget bill.

The majority of the  members of the Hispanic and Progressive Caucuses voted against the bill, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Luis Guiterrez (D-IL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-IL).

The bill has not been passed by the U.S. Senate. It is scheduled to be heard in the Senate this afternoon.

The bill would extend the E2-CNMI visa Program for 5 more years. While I support a pathway to citizenship for every legal, long term nonresident, including the legal long-term investors who currently hold E2-CNMI visas, I do support the bill's passage only to protect the E2-Investors. Without this bill and in the absence of the passage of a bill to provide permanent U.S. status, most of the loyal E2 investors would be forced to leave the CNMI and would suffer great financial losses.

There has been no action to push for permanent residency for the de facto citizens who make up more than 90% of the private work force in the CNMI.

The bill also exempted the CNMI and Guam from the cap on foreign workers who fill temporary positions. This will provide more workers who will be needed for the large upcoming construction projects.

Additionally, H.R. 83 exempts the CNMI from U.S. asylum laws. I disagree with this provision. Asylum laws must be applied to every U.S. state and territory
uniformly. Upholding human rights trumps any perceived claim, such as problems with Russian and Chinese tourist visas.

International Human Rights Day

December 10, 2014

In 1950 the United Nations General Assembly declared December 10 as Human Rights Day. This year's theme is Human Rights 365, meaning we should uphold human rights 365 days a year.

Not only is every person in the world entitled to human rights every hour of every day, but we all have an obligation to uphold human rights, to expose abuses and to demand reform.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 outlines the basic human rights for which every human being is entitled. Unfortunately, the upholding of human rights has not improved in 66 years.

Around the world human rights abuses are flourishing as wars rage, refugees flee war-torn countries, and torture is condoned as an interrogation method. An estimated one billion people lack food and clean water, while human trafficking has earned abuses billions of dollars.

In the United States human rights abuses thrive. Protests continue as over zealous law enforcement officials injure and fatality wound unarmed young black men with impunity.

Poverty in the U.S. is growing as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The city of Detroit, Michigan has shut off the water of the poor denying 27,000 households water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

Many corporations have more wealth than entire nations, yet their employees earn wages under $8.00 an hour and receive public assistance.

I see poverty all around me. There are Disney employees in Orlando who are homeless and sleep in their cars. There are students who have their backpacks filled with food every Friday so they have something to eat over the weekend. The house next door to us was repossessed last month.

Farm workers who put food on our tables do not have enough to eat. As millions in our country go hungry every day, the U.S. Congress proposes to pass a budget that would reward Wall Street with government bailouts should they make risky moves with investments.

Human trafficking in the U.S. is growing with the $150 billion industry victimizing an estimated 29.8 million people in the U.S. The U.S. Government has been accused of human trafficking in overseas contracts.

The U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is known for human trafficking cases. It was in the spotlight again today as Annette Nakatsukasa Basa was sentenced to 17.5 years for sex trafficking of children. Basa drugged the runaways and sold them to men for profit.

Alicia A.G. Limtiaco, U.S. Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands said:
“The sexual exploitation and abuse of vulnerable individuals is an affront to fundamental human rights and will not be tolerated. The defendant preyed on these young victims, manipulating and sexually exploiting them. [Friday’s] sentence sends the critical message that human trafficking is a crime that violates the very core and dignity of a human being and traffickers face severe punishment. The Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Office remain committed to vigorously prosecuting and holding accountable those who perpetrate these heinous crimes.”
It was a concerned citizen who brought this case to the attention of law enforcement officials as was noted by Judge Manglona.  I applaud this person's courageous act that stopped this horrendous abuse of minors.

We all have an obligation to report human rights abuses, to protest human rights abuses and to speak up for the victims and condemn the abusers. I encourage every person to embrace the theme of this year's Human Rights Day and speak out to stop abuses in their neighborhoods, cities or towns, states and nations.

Historic Move by President Obama on Immigration Reform

November 20, 2014

Finally.

President Obama addressed the nation to announce he will take executive action to lift up millions of undocumented aliens, to unite families, to push forward immigration reform.

Thousands of supporters gathered and waved American flags outside the White House as the President spoke.

The text of President's Obama's speech:
My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration. 
For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose. 
But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it. 
Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart. 
It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it. 
When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts. 
Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits. 
Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. 
Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just. 
Tonight, I am announcing those actions. 
First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over. 
Second, I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed. 
Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country. 
I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day. 
But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants – in every state, of every race and nationality – will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours. 
As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.” 
Now here’s the thing: we expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. 
That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you. 
I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. 
That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up. 
The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose – a higher purpose. 
Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know that some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw end of the deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character. 
Because for all the back-and-forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations. Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future? 
Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? 
Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs, businesses, and industries right here in America? 
That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration; we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears. 
I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love. These people – our neighbors, our classmates, our friends – they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success. 
Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to the other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mother cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school for fear the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant – so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree. 
Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid – or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? 
Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too. 
My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.
___________________

As an immigration reform advocate, I view this action as a first step, a huge step, a historic step in the right direction.

The U.S. Congress must act to establish a permanent solution. Advocates and nonresidents are hoping the President's action will force Republicans to take action to institute long overdue comprehensive immigration reform.

As expected, frenzied Republican members of Congress are attacking President Obama's move.  For years the have taken on the role of blocking, dividing, and fighting instead of governing. By making this move the President has said, "Enough!"

In the midst of crazy comments from right wing Republicans like, "Obama is acting like an emperor", "Jail Obama", and "Impeach Obama"  Nancy Pelosi reminded the American people that the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) declared on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show tonight that he would go out now and help sign up people to register for the new program.
____________________________

This is a not just a memorable day for undocumented aliens, but a memorable week for the farm workers across the country. The film, Food Chains is premiering across the nation this week. It is a documentary about the human cost of food.

Last year the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and supporters came to speak to my classes about the plight of our nation's farmworkers. They shared unedited clips from Food Chains. Much of it was filmed in Florida and highlights some protests we took part in.

This week I was honored to host Julia de la Cruz, a Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) farm worker from Mexico,  Claire Comiskey, a leader with the Interfaith Action and my friend Nico Grumbs, a leader with the Youth and Young Adult Farm Worker Ministry (YAYA). They are participating this weekend in a boycott of Publix supermarket in downtown Orlando and the premiere of Food Chains in Central Florida.

You cannot live in Florida and not be be aware of the exploitation and suffering of the migrant farm workers and their families. The farm workers put food on our plates, but do not have enough to eat. Thank a farm worker this Thanksgiving and watch Food Chains if you have the chance. (Go here.)


Obama to Address the Nation Tomorrow to Announce His Immigration Plan

November 19, 2014











President Obama will announce his plan to grant relief to undocumented aliens tomorrow night at 8:00 pm EST in a televised address. He expressed frustration with the gridlock and failure of the U.S. Congress to act on immigration reform.

After his announcement President Obama will be in Nevada trying to sell his plan. He hopes his action will encourage the U.S. Congress to finally act on a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The Republican leadership has threatened to block the upcoming spending bill and use other divisive tactics to deter the move.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated:
"Comprehensive immigration reform brings relief to families being torn apart by our broken system," he said. "Comprehensive immigration reform is an economic issue and one we must address. That's why I have been so disappointed that Republicans have ducked, dodged and skirted taking up legislation this Congress forcing President Obama to act administratively.
Despite the loud opposition from Republicans this presidential action is not new. Many former presidents have used executive action to provide amnesty or relief to undocumented aliens.  Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush extended amnesty to families who were not covered under the last major immigration overhaul in 1986. (See an immigration timeline.)

Polls show that the majority of Americans support immigration reform. From CNN:
Obama's position on immigration could be a popular one. Despite an overall wave of support for GOP candidates, 57% of this year's midterm election voters believe undocumented immigrants should have a chance to apply for legal status, while just 39% want them deported to the country they came from, CNN's exit polls found. 
Those exit polls found that 71% of U.S. midterm voters believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country legally if they meet certain requirements -- while 25% said those immigrants shouldn't be allowed to stay. 
A September CBS/New York Times poll found 51% saying Obama should use his executive powers to address immigration if Congress fails to act while 43% said he should not. A similar ABC/Washington Post survey earlier that month found 52% support for Obama acting on his own.
Now we wait to see if Delegate Sablan has convinced the Obama Administration to "exempt" the CNMI from his executive action.  

Time for a Change?

November 18, 2014

Has there ever been an administration in the CNMI that has regarded the nonresident workers as anything more than labor units? Probably not.

In fact, one of the CNMI administrations that has inflicted the most damage to the CNMI nonresident workers has to have been the Fitial-Inos one.  The list of their anti-foreign worker actions is a long one. I never trusted Fitial or Inos to do right by the nonresidents.  Both men are cast from the same mold – two ambitious politicians who will stop at nothing to keep their power and can be manipulated by ethically-challenged and greedy characters. A dark shadow of corruption follows both.

Both Fitial and Inos contributed to the exploitation and suffering of many nonresident workers, while employed as executives for L and T and while serving as leaders of the CNMI.

Disgraced ex-governor Fitial was set to be tried on nine corruption charges when Associate Judge David Wiseman dismissed the criminal charges against the notorious politician. The judge ruled that the Public Auditor did not have the authority to prosecute the case. Public Auditor Hasseback has asked Wiseman to reconsider his ruling.

It will be interesting to see how the judge rules or whether the newly elected CNMI Attorney General will file new charges against Fitial. If and when Fitial is tried, he may reveal what role, if any,  Inos played in his alleged criminal acts. The obvious role is accessory and enabler to a host of schemes.

Fitial's long time side kick, Eloy Inos is seeking re-election despite having some serious health issues, including diabetes, weekly kidney dialysis treatments, a recent heart procedure in the Philippines, and being hospitalized last week reportedly for the flu. Many question whether he is well enough to serve as the CNMI's top leader.

The duo began their partnership in Willy Tan's infamous L and T where both Fitial and Inos were executives.  There is something extremely ugly about immigrants like Tan treating other potential immigrants and foreigners as less than human, as labor units rather than as future citizens. Ugly also was the attitude of the executives towards the foreign workers.

In 2009 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settled four discrimination lawsuits against L and T companies. The EEOC press release stated, " L and T Group of Companies, Ltd., the largest employer and conglomerate of garment manufacturers in Saipan, has agreed to pay $1.7 million and to provide far reaching and significant injunctive relief to settle a series of lawsuits filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that charged the company with retaliation and discrimination based on national origin, pregnancy and age, all in violation of federal law."

Eloy Inos served as a Tan executive from 1996 to 2006. He was vice-president of International Trade and government relations from 1996 to 2004, and vice-president for business development from 2004 to 2006.  He was called on to testify about the exploitation and discrimination for the EEOC case. His statement indicates he knew about the problems, but referred them to others.
        
In 1991 Willie Tan, owner of Tan Holdings was charged with the largest labor settlement with the U.S. Dept. of Labor in U.S. history. paying $9 million in back wages to cheated workers in his garment factories. He also paid $76,000 in OSHA violations and pledged $1.3 million in factory renovations. It is the less publicized, and perhaps more despicable treatment of L and T's  foreign workers that makes me cringe when I hear the names Tan, Fitial and Inos – the lack of adequate food, inaccessibility to drinking water, the deplorable living conditions, denial of proper medical treatment, termination of pregnant workers and alleged sexual abuses of female employees and on and on.

In 2010 Acting Governor Eloy Inos commuted the sentence of prisoner
Velma Jean Aldan Arriola who was sentenced in March 2010 to nine months in prison for "committing 30 counts of criminal offenses which included forgery, misuse of credit card, identity theft, theft by unlawful taking, and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received." Arriola was a former employee at the Revenue and Taxation Office of the Department of Finance. Eloy Inos was the Secretary of Finance when she committed her crimes.

The Marianas Variety reported:
The prosecution said the signatures of six taxpayers were forged by Arriola to pay the tax obligations of six other taxpayers who paid their taxes in cash.

Arriola received a total of $383.27, but her scheme involved 12 individual accounts, and victimized six taxpayers, the prosecution stated.
The lieutenant governor cited humanitarian reasons for why he commuted his former employee's sentence.
From the Marianas Variety:
Superior Court Associate Judge Ramona Manglona said Arriola’s conduct “undermined the trust placed in the commonwealth government by its taxpaying citizens and residents. Collection of tax money is the foundation of the commonwealth government’s livelihood. Her conduct causes a serious strain on the social contract between the…government and the governed. The government must hold its employees to the highest standards, a breach of that trust must be punished.”

Inos cited “humanitarian reasons” in commuting Arriola’s sentence.

Inos said Arriola “received support in her request for leniency from Speaker Froilan C. Tenorio, and Rep. Rafael S. Demapan…and other members of the community.”

ArriolaInos said, is the primary caretaker of her ailing mother and disabled brother for several years.

She is also single mother with a 12-year-old minor son in need of nurturing and guidance, Inos added.

“Velma, being a female, is culturally most acceptable and natural to provide the necessary care and assistance that her mother needs,” Inos stated.

“Velma is most familiar, knowledgeable and understood the needs and manner of care-giving that her ailing mother and disabled brother deserve.”

Inos said Arriola “has expressed remorse and regret for her actions.”

All the victims have been reimbursed, he added, citing the information he received from the Department of Finance.

“The ends of justice are served by granting [her] an opportunity to continue the path to a successful, law-abiding life,” Inos stated in his order.
Where was the humanitarian concern for the exploited nonresident employees of L and T? For any of the legal, longterm nonresident workers?

Aside from years of well-publicized and documented labor abuses, there are the ties to felons that are attributed to Tan-owned companies, Fitial and Inos. Willie Tan, Benigno Fitial and Eloy Inos are linked to convicted felons, including Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, Ed Buckham, Kevin Ring, Mark Zachares and others charged in the Abramoff lobbying scandal. Email exchanges between Tan, Abramoff and other felon--lobbyists appear in indictments, information and other court documents. The ties between Tan and Abramoff were also documented by U.S. and international press and documentaries such as Capitol Crimes by PBS.

In 1996 Jack Abramoff hosted Saipan garment magnate Willie Tan, his company executive, Benigno Fitial (former speaker of the CNMI House, former disgraced governor), and another Tan executive, Eloy Inos (former Secretary of Finance, Fitial's former lieutenant governor and present governor who is seeking re-election) at the 1996 Republican Convention held in San Diego, California.

It appears that the three CNMI visitors had a busy schedule at the GOP convention. Abramoff billed the CNMI for five days of meetings, meals, introductions to conservative members of Congress, and parties. Strategies were developed including plans to recruit still more potential CNMI-backers for junkets to the CNMI. From the billing records (emphasis added):
8/10/96 PP [Patrick Pizella] 2.70 Dinner meeting with W. Tan, E. Inos and B. Fitial re: CNMI issues—minimum wage , immigration and upcoming congressional elections and CNMI legislation; discussion re: upcoming trips of journalists and think tank representatives to CNMI and visits to Tan Holdings factory.
8/11/96 PP [Patrick Pizella] 4:30 Participate in event sponsored by Sen. Santorum's “FIGHT PAC” with W. Tan, E. Inos, B. Fitial and Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT); follow-up luncheon/discussion with staff director of Senate Energy committee- G. Renkes; introduction of B. Fitial to Cong. Dan Burton (R-IN).
8/13/96 JA [Jack Abramoff] 4.00 Meetings at the Republican National Convention regarding Congressional Conservative Movement and Republican Party support for CNMI
8/13/96 JB [ Jonathan Blank ] 8:00 Meet with Saipan officials.
8/14/96 JA [Jack Abramoff] 4.00 Meetings at the Republican National Convention regarding Congressional Conservative Movement and Republican party support for CNMI
8/14/96 JA [Jack Abramoff] 8:00 Meet with Saipan officials.
8/15/96 JB [ Jonathan Blank ] 8:00 Meet with Saipan officials.
The CNMI government (taxpayers) was billed a total of 39 hours for those meetings.

In exchange for all of the opportunities to network and gather support, John Pangelinian, publisher of the Tan-owned newspaper, The Saipan Tribune, made two $5,000 contributions to Santorum's Fight PAC in August 2006.

Fitial, Inos and Tan were the recipients of the infamous July 30, 1997 Secret Memo sent by Abramoff to outline their schemes to halt federalization. The plan included planting editorials and newspaper articles written by the lobbying team, writing speeches for members of Congress to read on the floor of the House, penning "Dear Colleague" letters, manipulating congressional hearings, defunding the Office of Insular Affairs, and getting "enemies" of the CNMI (federalization supporters) fired.

Willie Tan set up a company called Rose Holdings to hire felon-lobbyist Jack Abramoff to block federalization in an effort to protect his family's business interests in the CNMI.  The Standard reported:
In May 2002, Abramoff notified the US Senate that Rose Garden had hired him and Greenberg Traurig, his firm at the time, to represent Rose Garden's "interests before federal agencies and [the] US Congress." Abramoff recorded Rose Garden's address as a luxury flat in Tai Hang, above Causeway Bay, and its business as international trade.

Over the next year and a half, the records show, Rose Garden paid Greenberg Traurig US$1.4 million (HK$10.92 million) for putting its case to the Senate, House of Representatives and US Department of Labor. Hong Kong's Companies Registry has no record of Rose Garden Holdings; nor does the telephone directory.

The apartment listed by Abramoff as Rose Garden's premises has been owned since 1992 by Luen Thai Shipping and Trading, according to the Land Registry. Luen Thai Holdings and its controlling shareholders, the Tan family, were leading beneficiaries of Abramoff's Washington lobbying.
An email exchange between Abramoff and Tan showed that Tan paid a quarterly fee of $55,919 for the sky boxes used by the lobbyists to bribe staffers and members of congress to protect the interests of their clients, including the CNMI.

When the CNMI government ran out of lobbying money in 1998, the Tan companies and Tan-run organizations came to the rescue, according to an Asian Sentinel article:
When the government stepped out, the private sector stepped back in. The Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association teamed with the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and two other local business groups to form the Western Pacific Economic Council, which in turn paid Preston Gates US$2.4 million in 1999 and 2000 for lobbying.
In fact, in March 1999 The Western Pacific Economic Council contracted Abramoff to lobby against CNMI federalization and a raise in the minimum wage. The lobbying firm continued the original game plan they had drafted with Governor Pedero P. Tenorio, Speaker Fitial, and garment magnate Willie Tan. Inos was employed as Tan's vice president.

The Tan-Inos relationship continues. Under the Inos Administration the Department of Public Lands is leasing 4.8 hectares with five buildings to Tan Holdings for $100 a year.

The CNMI's nonresident  and resident workers can thank Governor Inos for keeping their wages low. He worked with Delegate Sablan to successfully block the scheduled minimum wage increase. (Read this June 2014 blog entry, State of the Commonwealth Spits in the Face of the Nonresident Workers.)

Both Fitial and Inos opposed action on the 2010 U.S. DOI Report that called for upgraded status of the nonresident workers. Their administration supported maintaining the nonresidents' status as a disenfranchised underclass rather than backing the DOI recommendation.

Will the CNMI ever elect leaders who respect the nonresidents and view them as future citizens, rather than mere labor units? There are some signs of hope. Ed Probst was elected to the House of Representatives. Some of the nonresidents' U.S. Citizen children are grown and voting in elections. Soon one may run for office and win.

Until the time when there are enough CNMI elected officials willing to take a moral stand for the islands' nonresidents, CNMI nonresidents will have to turn to the U.S. Congress and President Obama for any help to gain them long-awaited action to improve their status.

Countdown to Executive Action on Immigration

November 18, 2014



















When I was young I used to have an Advent Calendar to countdown the days to Christmas. There was anticipation, but no guessing. The date was set.

Waiting for President Obama to take Executive Action on Immigration Reform is all anticipation and all guessing. At the end of Spring it was reported that executive action would be taken before summer. Summer came and passed. Then we were told it would happen after election. The election is over. Then the news was next week. Okay guys, it's next week now and. . . .

. . . some reports are that there has to be another delay. Some media outlets report that there will be no executive action until after a bipartisan spending bill passes. Meanwhile other media outlets say Democrats are backing the action now.

If Obama pushed immigration reform during his first term, it would have been passed. If Delegate Gregorio Sablan had insisted on immediate action on the 2010 U.S. Department of Interior's mandated recommendation on status for the CNMI's nonresidents (as was the intention of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act), a bill would have passed.  The uncertainty and anguish that hang over the CNMI's nonresidents would be gone.

If our elected leaders took action instead of playing political games, we could be discussing a decent minimum wage, tax reform, and a host of other issues that need immediate attention right now.  Instead we're still waiting for people to do the right thing. Or waiting for the next excuse not to do it.

Executive Action on Immigration Form Expected As Early As Next Week

November 13, 2014














Reports from a variety of news sources say that President Obama will announce his Executive Action Immigration Plan as early as next week.   Fox news reports that it will be a 10-point plan that will:
  • Prioritize deportations for serious criminals 
  • End ‘Secure Communities’ and start a new program  
  • Boost pay for ICE officers
  • Expand high-tech visas 
  • Strengthen border security 
  • Expand provisional waivers to spouses and children of legal permanent residents 
  • Expand parole allowing undocumented aliens with U.S. citizen children to have parole
  • Promote the naturalization process by reducing the application fee for the first 10,000 applicants
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said  he would fight the President tooth and nail if he follows through with his plan. Numerous other presidents have taken executive action on immigration

An estimated 5 million undocumented aliens would be included in the plan.  Will it help the LEGAL, long term nonresident in the CNMI most who have been hoping to be granted permanent residency status for decades? Will the undocumented aliens in the CNMI be included? Hopefully, they are not left out of any executive order. If anyone on U.S. soil deserves protection and upgraded status it is this group.