Racist, Anti-Guest Worker Remarks in CNMI Department of Labor Commentary

April 29, 2008

The CNMI Department of Labor's commentary on HB 16-86, Resident Foreign National Status Act of 2008, sponsored by Representatives Tina Sablan, Victor Hocog, Heinz Hofschneider, and Edward Salas contained racist, anti-guest worker remarks. It is odd that the Director of the Department of Labor did not write the letter; instead it was signed by Deputy Secretary of the CNMI Department of Labor, Cinta Kaipat. Several people have suggested that Deanne Siemer was the actual author. Siemer, an "unpaid consultant" for Governor Fitial, a DOL hearing officer, and a DOL "volunteer" is said to have written previous letters on behalf of Kaipat. Whoever wrote the letter, it represented a very anti-guest worker sentiment.

The letter opens:

"The Labor Department opposes Tina Sablan's draft "Resident Foreign National Status Act of 2008" and urges the Committee not to report out this unfortunate and flawed bill. It accommodates only the interests of the foreign workers and has no appropriate compensating benefits for the citizens of the Commonwealth."

The letter is riddled with racist remarks:

"Some foreign nationals speak English reasonably well, have dealt with the Labor Department honestly, and have a working understanding of their responsibilities under Commonwealth law. But many foreign workers of relatively long residence are found by hearing officers to be engaged in scams and frauds just to remain in the Commonwealth. They make false statements in hearings; disregard Department orders; and generally disrespect Commonwealth law."

Some are honest, but many are engaged in scams and frauds, make false statements, and disregard the Commonwealth law? This is a racist generalization. What do the English skills of a guest worker have to do with his or her honesty in dealing with the Department of Labor?

There's more:

"Many foreign workers who have been in the Commonwealth for five years have records of continuous employment, but that employment is not real. It exists on paper alone and is, in fact, a fraud on the Commonwealth government."

Many? Again, a racist generalization. Where are the statistics to back up this allegation? If, in fact, this is true then the CNMI labor and immigration system that the Fitial Administration has praised and supported, is very ineffective by their own admission.

What hypocritical audacity to remark:

"...this very large number would be a deliberate slap in the face to the authors of the federalization bill which rejected this very provision (status for the persons who had been in the Commonwealth for five years) and instead used provisions that seek to deport all these people over the next five years. It might even invite more punitive legislation in the next Congress, Modest proposals to assist in the longer-term stay of a smaller number of foreign nationals might be acceptable in some regards, but this proposal seems deliberately inflammatory."

Coming from the very administration that worked successfully to remove the status provision from the federal legislation, one might ask, "Who is slapping whose face?" To repeatedly misrepresent the intent of the federal legislation by stating that it will "deport all these people over the next five years" when the authors of the bill and numerous federal officials have continually said this is untrue, is nothing more than the intentional promotion of propaganda. Punitive legislation? The legislation is not punitive.

The letter continues with more admissions that the CNMI system is flawed, as the author of the letter claims:

This proposal includes some very undesirable people. This would include:

Persons who have brought fraudulent or frivolous labor cases and never worked at all during the five year period because they were present in the Commonwealth relying soley on the pendency of their labor case;

Persons who worked illegally in the underground economy for long periods of time but just did not get caught in time before the five-year mark was reached;

Persons who "bought" scam job credentials, essentially paying for their stay in the Commonwealth by participating in fraudulent schemes;

Persons who made a living by providing phony job credentials to other nationals for a fee."

How on earth would all of these "undesirable people" be in the Commonwealth if there was an effective labor and immigration system? This letter paints a picture of the guest workers as cheaters, scammers, and frauds filing frivolous labor cases. The guest workers are owed an apology.

The administration denounced the federalization bill. They stated that 18,000 guest workers are needed to fill jobs in the CNMI, and they falsely claimed that the federalization bill would eliminate all guest workers from the CNMI within five years. Yet, this same administration libels the workers that they claim they need. This same administration tears apart a bill that attempted to create a stable and secure workforce, lay the foundations for social and political justice, and help to lead the CNMI towards a prosperous future.

Update: Tina's Comments

In today's Marianas Variety Gemma Casas quotes Tina Sablan:

"Sablan, for her part, said she was deeply disturbed” by Kaipat’s “hostile generalizations” which, she added, raise questions about the former legislator’s ability to handle labor cases fairly and objectively."

Sablan said it is Kaipat’s interpretation of her bill that is flawed...

“It is incorrect to suggest that the proposed resident foreign national program would result in a significant population increase,” she said. “Current CNMI law allows foreign national workers who meet certain income requirements to bring in their immediate relatives; these same requirements would apply to resident foreign nationals who apply for resident foreign national status.”

She added, “As an attorney, former legislator, and current deputy secretary of Labor, Ms. Kaipat should know that her criticisms are legally insupportable.


Ron Hodges said...

What a tragedy for our community. This response is cold hearted, poorly conceived, inaccurate, economically flawed, racist in intent, and a complete disappointment in every respect. One thing this letter is not, and that is a surprise. Big business is quite predictable and our puppets here follow the script to the letter.
My compliments to Representatives Tina Sablan, Victor Hocog, Heinz Hofschneider, and Edward Salas for offer such a progressive piece of legislation.