Reaction: Congressional Passage of S. 2739

Photo ©2007 W. L. Doromal

April 30, 2008

Community and national reaction to the passing of S. 2739 in the US House yesterday has been mixed. Here are some comments from the Saipan Tribune and Marinas Variety articles. From the Tribune:

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial deferred issuing comments on the passage of the bill, which his administration has opposed strongly.“I am pleased with the enactment of the legislation providing for a Northern Marianas delegate in the House of Representatives. I am disappointed with the remainder of the legislation and may have further comments on the subject in my State of the Commonwealth speech on Friday,” he said.

"Tina Sablan said she was pleased that “we're one step closer to normalizing our labor and immigration.” She expressed hope that local officials and community leaders would now stop arguing the pros and cons of the bill and work together to make the new system work for the Commonwealth."

Pete A. Tenorio, the Commonwealth's resident representatives to Washington, D.C., called the expected enactment of the bill “a new era for our government.”

“I am pleased with the passage of the bill, and I am sure most people will agree with me that this something we needed for a long time,” said Tenorio.

Attorney Stephen Woodruff
underscored the need for the CNMI to work intelligently and systematically with the federal government to make this change work for the Commonwealth.

“Ideas of suing over the legislation are useless, counterproductive, and an absolute waste of time,” he stressed.

What needs to be done, the lawyer said, is to work on the federalization's implementation process.

Jerry Custodio Human Dignity Movement president said, We hope and pray that it will be immediately signed by President Bush. We are very thankful to the U.S. Congress and especially to human rights advocate Wendy Doromal and Rep. Tina Sablan,” Custodio said.

Guam Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo praised the provision granting the CNMI a congressional delegate. “I look forward to the day that the delegate from the CNMI is sworn in to the House of Representatives,” she said.

Human rights advocate Wendy Doromal said she is hoping that, with the passage of the legislation, illegal recruitment, human trafficking, unfair labor practices, and human rights abuses in the CNMI will end.

In an e-mail to Saipan Tribune, Doromal said that, by next month, President Bush will sign the bill into law, “helping to establish social and political justice, human rights, and economic prosperity in the CNMI.”

“This is a law that is long overdue,” she stressed.

The human rights advocate said just as she always believed that federalization was inevitable, it is her opinion that a pathway to citizenship for long-term guest workers is inevitable.

Doromal said she would be working now to obtain a secure status for long-term guest workers.

“It would be in the best interest of all CNMI residents to embrace this change that will provide just and equitable laws for everyone who calls the CNMI home. It is change that will pave the road to a secure future for all of the people who live and work in the CNMI,” she added.

From the Marianas Variety:

Juan T. Guerrero, the former president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, said the “mighty” U.S. Congress can “essentially do what it pleases even if it will hurt the islands’ fragile economy.”

“Every effort that the U.S. is doing will hurt the business community,” he said.

“It’s a combination of factors — the increase in fuel prices, the impending increase in the minimum wage.”

Jim Arenovski, the current president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, said the business community is ready to move forward once the bill becomes law.

“We knew it was going to happen,” he said. “We’re now in a position to work on the rules and regulations (to implement the legislation).”

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. and chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, hopes that the measure will “help the CNMI open a new chapter of economic prosperity in compliance with American law.”

Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen, D-V.I. and chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, praised the passage of the legislation.

Its approval, she said, “will ensure that employers have the ability to fill jobs, continue vocational training to empower CNMI residents with skills needed to succeed in their economy, foster partnerships with neighboring Guam to diversify the region’s economy, maintain adequate protections for the nonresident guest worker community, and strategically secure the Marianas archipelago.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mi., said, “Extending federal immigration law to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands closes the guest worker loophole under which so many were held in modern slavery. The Constitution’s guarantee of freedom must apply everywhere in the United States, no matter how remote.”

Conyers chairs the House Judiciary Committee and is also a co-sponsor of the House federalization bill.

From GMA News:

Irene Tantiado, interim chair of the newly formed Coalition of United Guest Workers (CNMI), told GMANews.TV on Wednesday that a majority of the guest workers in Saipan were already expecting the bill’s passage.

Tantiado, who has been in Saipan for 11 years, said the focus now should be on the promulgating rules and regulations to make sure that foreign workers in the CNMI will have better immigration status under a federal immigration system.

"We are not losing hope that we will be able to get green cards which is a much better deal than the current CNMI law that's why we're still gathering more signatures for our petition to US Congress," she said.


Saipan Writer said...

I've put up a summary of the bill on Day In Court blog, if you're interested.