Willens Pushes for a Federal Lawsuit

August 29, 2008

What did "special counsel" Howard Willens present to the CNMI legislators in the two hour closed-door session?  Here is his presentation on the federal lawsuit

Some highlights from the slides:

His suggestions for dealing with PL 110-229 are to negotiate with DHS about the regulations, seek new legislation in a new Congress next year, and challenge particular provisions in court. 

Again, Willens makes the claim that the federal takeover will eliminate the needed workforce. I say then give all of the long-term workers green cards to have a secure work force and stop the whining.  

His presentation also laments the loss of CNMI fees for immigration, loss of CNMI Division jobs, loss of labor fees to the CNMI government. He also makes the claim that the CNMI needs 30,000 foreign workers to "function at the level that produces a reasonable US equivalent standard of living."  There are now an estimated 18,000 foreign workers in the CNMI.  

There were numerous slides showing GAO's assessment of "economic harm", and then some outlining his reasons for litigation.  They include:
This is a dispute about whether the Congress may invade the Commonwealth's right of self-government. This issue can be resolved only in the courts.  The legislation may cause enormous harm to the Commonwealth.  A court's power to issue an injunction is the only way to stop this harm from occurring.
Willens goes on to say that the CNMI does not challenge legislation that addresses border security. He also said the lawsuit would challenge the reduction of foreign workforce, imposition of federal permit system, pre-emption of the commonwealth's labor laws governing contracts and working conditions, loss of labor fees to US government, loss of local control over how businesses contract with foreign workers, loss of cover-over funds from immigration fees, and designation of current workers as illegals. 

The last slides outlines questions concerning the legislation, and how Willens believes that PL 110-228 violates the Covenant.

The Saipan Tribune reported on the presentation also. The Fitial administration presented it as a tool to get the CNMI legislature to fund the lawsuit which was estimated to cost $50,000 a month for a minimum of eight months or $400,000. However, the House said no to funding the ill-advised lawsuit:
The top leaders of the House of Representatives--Speaker Arnold Palacios and Vice Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero-on Thursday spoke in unison to express their strong opposition to the administration's request to support the lawsuit. They said the CNMI should engage the federal government in dialogue instead of pursuing a costly but uncertain court battle.
In a previous Saipan Tribune article quoted other legislative leaders as opposing the lawsuit:
Rep. Diego T. Benavente, chair of the House's Committee on U.S. and Foreign Relations, said CNMI should engage the federal in a dialogue, instead of pursuing an expensive but uncertain lawsuit.
The Saipan Tribune also quoted Representative Tina Sablan as opposing the lawsuit:
Rep. Christina Sablan said that suing the federal government “is a waste of public funds.”

“I think all it does is undermine even further our relations with the federal government and this is the time that we need help,” Sablan said.Rep. Sablan said the purpose of the presentation was to make an argument for supporting the litigation against the federal government.

“I don't support it at all,” she said.

Sablan said she asked at the end of the presentation if any public funds have been spent in the initial consultation with the law firm.

“They said no, but I understand that the consultation was funded by private sources,” she said.

Sablan also asked how much the proposed litigation would cost the government if public funds are made available.

“I am not convinced that litigation is the best option or should be the first reason,” she said.

If the CNMI is so worried about tens of thousands of workers being deported, then why not in the next two years petition them for residency, Sablan asked.

“There is nothing that prohibits us from asking for that now. It would make economic sense. Certainly, if especially their primary argument is that the loss of these foreign workers in such a short time frame would impact us tremendously, well, we're looking at workers who have been here for years, so why not petition for residency? And he [Willens] could not answer that!” the lawmaker said.

Sablan also suggested that perhaps the petition and negotiation with the federal government would be cheaper than suing them at this point.

Sablan said Sen. Maria Frica Pangelinan also asked in the presentation what public service would suffer as a result of bringing the lawsuit.
What governor would have the audacity (or stupidity) to ask for these funds when he declared CUC in a "state of emergency", the public schools lack funding, NMC is in crisis, and the Commonwealth Center is is desperate need of funds? There are no funds, and he knows that. 

The CNMI has wasted millions on lobbyists to fight federalization at the expense of their infrastructure and well-being of the residents.  At the same time the CNMI government has fought the federal government, it has had its hand out asking for federal funds and bailouts. One hand to plunge the knife into the back of the federal government, and one hand out asking for funds. 


Anonymous said...

Did you see there are worker forums to discuss the federalization worker program that has not been written? One with an attorney from Guam and one Dekada is having with "an official from the Office of the Governor to talk about the role of the commonwealth in the implementation of federal immigration law in the CNMI." What does the attorney from Guam know about a guest worker program being drafted now? Who would want to listen to someone from the gov office? Is it willens? Maybe they are bringing back the worker forums with dekads and siemmer to kill federalization by getting workers onboard to support local status. Fitial would like a long term local control better than green cards. They don't want us to be able to vote. They just want us to work forever for them with our mouths shut and tail between our legs.

Site Administrator said...

I believe the forums are on H visas and US immigration policy that is established.