Concerns for US citizen children with disabilities

July 22, 2008

In July 2007 and again this spring I brought to the attention of federal officials the urgent need to consider the US citizen children of the non-resident workers and especially those with chronic illnesses and disabilities. My concerns were hand-delivered to over 50 members of the US Senate and House and to several federal agencies. Both written reports and a video containing interviews of some of the non-residents worker parents and their US citizen children were given to the officials. I have not received a definitive response to my pleas for status for these parents. (Unless one considers the removal of the grandfathering provision from the House and Senate bills a response.)

However, it is reassuring to know that some CNMI legislators, workers groups, and indigenous groups have joined in appealing to the federal government to consider the plight of the parents and their US citizen children. The Saipan Tribune reports that Representatives Tina Sablan and Edward Salas will ask the CNMI Department of Labor to consider providing special help for children with disabilities whose parents face repatriation. From the Tribune:

In a pending letter to Labor, Sablan and Salas plan to ask the department to address a host of regulatory issues such as due process concerns and the consistency of its enforcement efforts. One key topic among the many to be detailed in the letter, Sablan said in an interview Monday, will be Labor's approach to dealing with foreign workers whose children-often U.S. citizens-have disabilities requiring special care they might not be able to get in their home nations should their parents be sent back.

“These parents haven't found new jobs and they're worried about being sent home and what will happen with their children if that happens,” Sablan said. “This is probably a situation that should also be brought up with federal officials as they draft the new regulations on immigration.”

Sablan noted that in talks held earlier this year, Labor officials revealed they are crafting so-called “extreme hardship” rules for foreign workers, a plan that could pave the way for measures to address the special needs of such families.
Irene Tantiado, president of the United Coalition of Workers (NMI) was quoted as saying, “If they have to go back to the Philippines, which is where many of them are from, or other countries, they probably can't get the help they need. And if they leave their children here-they have special needs-who will take care of them?”

The Marianas Variety reports:
THE CNMI Descents for Self-Government and Indigenous Rights will ask the federal government to “carefully consider” the case of parents of U.S. citizen children with disabilities.

Former Speaker Oscar C. Rasa, the group’s spokesman and adviser, said they are hoping that the federal government will grant special status for these parents for “humanitarian reasons.”

“All indigenous groups are culturally and religiously inclined to support anything that requires compassion and this is the case where we have to demonstrate that we will help when help is needed,” Rasa told Variety.

During their group’s meeting on Monday, Rasa said, members expressed concern for the plight of guest workers who have children with disabilities.

As I wrote in my written testimony to both the House and Senate Committees, and in written testimony to the House markup Hearing last year, I support providing green card status for all parents of US citizen children who are long-term CNMI guest workers.