More Reaction on Federalization

April 13, 2008

Senators Support S. 2739

Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) both support S. 2739. The Saipan Tribune reports:

"Both Hawaii senators spoke in favor of the CNMI immigration bill during floor debate on Thursday, congressional records show.

Senators Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye, in expressing their support for the omnibus bill S. 2739, made particular mention of the provisions that would have federal government take control of labor and immigration in the Northern Marianas.

Akaka hailed the omnibus bill's “targeted provisions that address unique circumstances and issues occurring in the Pacific region.”

Senator Akaka sponsored the original Senate bill that was amended and incorporated into the omnibus bill, S 2739. His remarks include:

“This legislation meets the Federal Government’s interest in further implementation of the Covenant, securing our borders, and in the establishment of stable immigration and labor policies on which the CNMI can build its future."

“The legislation provides a basis to transition the CNMI to Federal immigration laws, while protecting the local economy. These provisions are crucial to address the immigration abuses that have persisted in the CNMI for the past 20 years,."

Senator Inouye stated that the bill:

"seeks to correct profound problems in local immigration laws that have enabled the import of low paid, short termed indentured workers to be brought to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, CNMI.”

Some were bought to work in garment factories. Others arrived in the CNMI, only to find that there was no job waiting for them, and were forced to find unpalatable means to work off their bondage debt,” he added."

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) the sponsor of the bill said:

“This bill culminates 11 years of congressional and executive branch efforts to extend the U.S. immigration laws to the CNMI including the establishment of Federal border control as anticipated by the 1976 Covenant agreement between the CNMI and the United States. The bill also includes special provisions to meet the special needs of the islands’ economy,” said Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which had reviewed and recommended passage of the bill.

Bingaman also noted that the NMI delegate bill would provide representation to CNMI citizens, who have been unable to participate in the lawmaking process during the past 20 years they have members of the U.S. family."

Fitial Exploring Options to Prevent Federalization

The Marinas Variety reported today that Governor Fitial still believes he can block federalization. The story by Gemma Casas states the governor is not considering litigation due to limited resources. Lynn Knight, HAMNI chair is still in Washington, DC lobbying, but there is no indication that the governor or his legal counsel, Howard Willens will be going there according to the story. It quotes Governor Fitial:

“The move to federalize our immigration is not based on current facts and does not take the CNMI’s vulnerable economic situation into account. I wish the U.S. Congress would fully consider the GAO reports before committing to such a major policy change for our islands.”

David Cohen Says Unite Behind Federalization to Make It Work

Former Deputy Assistant of the US Department of Interior, David Cohen who helped draft the original federalization bill, told Gemma Casa of the Marianas Variety:

“The new law can be implemented in a way that is great for everyone in the CNMI, or it can be implemented in a way that is harmful,” said Cohen.

“The community now needs to unite and engage constructively with the people who will be drafting the regulations to make sure that they follow the statute’s mandate to be flexible and support economic growth.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will lead at least four federal agencies in implementing the federal guest worker transition program.

The federalization legislation included in S. 2739 will take effect one year, which can be extended to six more months, after it is signed into law.

Cohen noted that people who argued over federalization now find themselves on the same side.

“People on both sides argued passionately for what they thought was right. Now, people who had been on opposite sides suddenly find themselves on the same side. Everyone in the CNMI wants this to be implemented in a manner that’s good for the CNMI,” said Cohen.

“Everyone wants businesses to do well so that they can provide jobs to locals and guest workers alike. Everyone wants tourism to boom,” he added."

Taotao Tano's Greg Cruz Says Challenge Federalization Bill in Court

In a letter to the editor, Taotao Tano President Greg Cruz declared that the Fitial administration should challenge the federalization legislation in court. He said:

"We have Mr. Willens, one of the best lawyers, working for us for free. So we can win and get rid of this insulting legislation. Do you really want Mr. Benedetto as King of Labor on this island?"

Cruz who had been supporting meeting to investigate status for guest workers now appears to have backed away from that idea:

"As president of Taotao Tano I also have to respectfully rescind further discussions or dialogue with the foreign guest workers on the issue of long term residency here in our homeland. Although this a matter of economical benefits and the possibility of working together in one direction to address our current economic crisis in our homeland it is of great sensitivity to my local indigenous people of the land, the Chamorros and Carolinians. This is an issue best left alone until we win in the court, and there is no more federal immigration bill. Then it can be decided by the local community.

The last two meetings we attended both in Kagman and in San Vicente sent out a clear message that there are Pros and Cons on the issue and as president of the Taotao Tano and an advocate for the indigenous local Northern Marianas Descent people of the land I want us to do the right thing, but I want to get rid of federalization first."

His letter continues with the incorrect mantra of the Fitial federalization fighters saying that the bill will phase out all guest workers. He ends his letter stating, "We the indigenous local Northern Mariana Descent people of the land can forgive but we must never forget the total disrespect inflicted upon us. "

Attorney Woodruff Says Federalization and Long-Term Residency Status Can Go Hand in Hand

Ferdie de La Torre from the Saipan Tribune reports that Dekada Attorney Stephen Woodruff states that federalization and the "initiative for longterm resident status can go hand in hand." The article states:

"If there is federalization, Woodruff said, this LTR initiative is one of the important step for the CNMI to make federalization work to smooth out the transitional process into the new system.

The initiative, he added, will provide the CNMI with a stable workforce and a fair, more just system of foreign contract labor to supplement the local workforce.

“These two things (federalization and LTR initiative) can really go hand-in-hand,” the lawyer stressed.

Woodruff said federalization and LTR are important steps toward the CNMI's economic recovery."

Ron Hodges - Chamberonomics 49

In a letter to the editor, Ron Hodges quoted Rep. George Miller's (D-CA) press release and added these remarks:

"Now is the time to offer CGW security an interim bill that protects everyone from deportation. Workers must be protected in our labor hearings. No continuous improvement process can ever be effective unless workers are adequately protected.

Now is the time for CGW and residents demand P.L.-15 108 (Island Slave Law) be repealed.

Now is the time for CGW and locals in the hotel and tourism industry to meet with owners and negotiate improvements in pay, security, and working conditions.

Now is the time for our community to unite. Now is the time for those supporting unity to move. Now is the time to judge the sincerity and integrity of big business, HANMI, the chamber, the current administration, and our local Legislature’s intentions for improving the lives of contract guest workers and our community.

Congratulations to every contract guest worker in the CNMI."

Chamber President Wants a Seat At the Table

The Saipan Tribune reports that Chamber of Commerce President Jim Arenovski wants to make sure businesses have a voice in the regulations under a new federal immigration system.
He said:

“Although we are disappointed that Senate Bill 2739 has passed the United States Senate in its current form, we look forward to having a seat at the table and participating in the formulation of regulations pertaining to the bill to ensure that our questions and concerns are addressed and to hopefully clarify ambiguous portions of the legislation,” said Chamber president Jim Arenovski."


Saipan Writer said...

Good content. Disheartening news here in Saipan where the Senate passage of the federalization bill has not brought greater unity.

Ms. Doromal,
I borrowed on of your photos from the unity march and used it on MLSC's Day In Court blog, with attribution. If you object, please let me know and I'll remove it.

Also, the blog post where it appears contains some information about the possible availability of TWAs for workers in the CNMI who have lost or face losing legal status.


Ron Hodges said...

"chamber" would like to sit at the table...for what. The idea is mending our stained reputation from a generation of exploitation and abuse and the chamber perspective is clouded, at light of the travel squads recent lobby junkets.