Second Meeting on Guest Worker Status

March 22, 2008

Shedding Some Light...

Guest workers have asked me to relay information about the second meeting with Deanne Siemer and Maya Kara held at the China House Restaurant. According to guest workers, the meeting was attended by attorney Deanne Siemer (full-time DOL volunteer), attorney Maya Kara (another admitted volunteer), Dekada attorney Stephen Woodruff, some Dekada leaders and members, representatives from the Bangladeshi,Korean, and other guest worker communities. Taotao Tano President Greg Cruz, and the Executive Director of Chamber of Commerce also attended the meeting.

A guest worker stated, "Ms. Siemer and Maya Kara would like to work with the CNMI Administration and CNMI legislator for guest workers permanent residency." They both claimed that they were volunteers. At the opening of the meeting Attorney Woodruff stated it was clear that the guest workers support federalization.

Workers said that Maya Kara presented a history of proposed CNMI residency programs claiming that this had been discussed even during the Trust Territory times. The women claimed it is time to look at this again. (Even though Seimer opposed status in PL 15-108, and vehemently supported the exit provision in this local labor law which states: “The second reason, also important, is to enforce the basic bargain that was made with each foreign national worker who entered the Commonwealth for employment purposes and not for permanent residence.”)

It was relayed that Siemer discussed five main points at the meeting:

1. Number of years residency - How many years would a guest worker have to have been legally in the CNMi before he/she can apply for status.

2. Open class and closed class - Open class is assigned to those workers who have not yet qualified for the residency status, workers for example, who have worked only 3 or 4 years in the CNMI.

3. Social responsibility - Workers will be deportable if they break the law.

4. Financial responsibility - How much the application will cost.

5. Fees for permanent residency - How much will be charged to the guest workers to obtain this status.

It was said that at the meeting the workers were asked what they favored as far as length of years that long term guest worker would prefer to have for "permanent residency." She presented data on the years and number of guest workers who would receive residency. Siemer said if the duration of the status was five years, then nine thousand people would receive their permanent residency. If it was ten years, then three thousand six hundred people would receive their CNMI residency. Five years seemed to be the favored length of renewable status.

They also discussed the fee that would be attached to the application for "residency." A fee of $500 was thrown out. That would reap the CNMI coffers $4,500,000.00 if 9,000 guest workers were awarded the 5 year status. It was stated that family members would also be allowed in the CNMI.

A guest worker asked, "Why only now? Why is this being proposed now?"

Workers said, "Siemer said the program that they are offering is better than the federal one. "

Workers also said, "Siemer stated that if federalization comes first before this proposal, then they will sue the federal government to block it. They will file an injunction."

Workers reported that Taotao Tano president Greg Cruz supported the proposal and was "appreciative." But he also threw out many questions on why the guest workers had the Unity March and put the videos on You Tube.

An open meeting will be held on April 2, 2008 at 1:00pm at the American Memorial Park.

Again, "permanent residency" cannot be offered. As a federal official pointed out, "The CNMI's Constitution, Article II, Section 5, prevents the CNMI Legislature from passing any legislation that creates permanent residency or citizens, other than those who are born here. Article II, Section 5 says, in part: "The legislature shall enact no law which increases the class of nonaliens..." Additionally, federal officials have said that the CNMI cannot offer permanent status. The bill that I reviewed called for "resident foreign national status", and it has a time limit of 5 years. It is not "permanent", and therefore, should not be in conflict with any laws.

There are several views that I have heard concerning this proposal. Some welcome the proposal that would offer the guest workers a secure status during the transition period between the time S. 2739 is passed and the enactment date a year later. Some are of the opinion that this could be used as a model for worker status when federalization passes. Others say that this could offer relief if the federalization bill is not passed. (I believe the bill will pass next month.)

Still others question the sincerity of this offer. Here are some questions that have been raised by credible residents and non-resident workers in the CNMI:

- Why would a government that fought successfully to remove status from the federalization bill, turn around now and support status for workers?

- Why would a government that supports periodic exit provisions so workers cannot be eligible for permanent status, now support status?

- Who do these two women represent? The legislature or the governor? Who are they "volunteering" for? Was there an offer of a future job or pay made to these "volunteers?"

- Why would Siemer, who helped author P.L. 15-108, held forums to support this local labor bill, and argued that workers need to have periodic exits, now suddenly be in favor of granting status to guest workers?

- Will the CNMI government be offering "residency" to workers in an attempt to gain their support to oppose the federalization which they have repeatedly misinterpreted?

- If they are successful, and federalization is delayed, will those who offered this status suddenly come to the "realization" that they cannot offer such a status, and pull the rug out from under the guest workers?

- Are Siemer and Kara trying to use the workers to support a law suit against the federal government? Will they try to convince workers to support this program over federalization and then use them as witnesses to boost their claim against the federal government? Will it be these two women who will be hired by the CNMI government to sue the federal government reaping in hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees from taxpayers money? Is that why they are "volunteering?" Or are they already on the payroll and already have written this lawsuit?

The questions deserve direct answers from the two women who are making the offer, rather then interpretations, speculations, and assumptions from those who are trying to sort this out, and evaluate the sincerity of this offer. As I said previously:

"It is a good thing that plans are being discussed and proposed. It means everyone is looking to the future and moving in the right direction to improve the economy, create a stable work force, and ensure a better quality of life for the non-resident workers. It would serve everyone concerned if all who have a vested interest were given an open platform to share their ideas and proposals so the best possible plan could become reality. These parties would include the guest workers, the CNMI government, the residents of the CNMI, the businesses, and the federal government."


Anonymous said...

Read Middle Road: for good views and takes on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Mam Wendy you think the contract workers should listen to Mrs. Siemer?

Site Administrator said...

Listen to anyone, but evaluate their background, their motives, and their intent. I believe this is a ploy to use desperate workers for their own means -to defeat federalization. I personally would not be working with anyone who is saying that they "will sue the federal government and ask for an injunction to stop federalization." However, if people want to test the waters to see if this could be politically advantageous, I respect that right.

I also believe the federal bill will pass next month.

Tina's bill is good. I support it to be used in the one year transition period from the time federalization passes until the time it is enacted. It could even be used after federalization, and as a model for the guest worker program in the states.

I am placing my attention now with pushing for a comprehensive federal status plan that will come after S 2739 passes.

Ron Hodges said...

With the history we have here in regard to labor and immigration, I think CNMI Representative Tina Sablan, Federal Ombudsman Jim Benedetto, and legendary human rights activist Wendy Doromal could write legislation that would be a role model for the United States to insure the moral objectives of our great nation and the principles of democracy will be observed on American soil now and for future generations.