Congressional Hispanic Caucus Forum and Nonresidents

Rep. Luis Guttierez at Congressional Hispanic Caucus meeting

May 19, 2009

Through the suggestion of Congressman Gregorio (Kilili) Sablan, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus invited me to participate in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Roundtable, which was held in conjunction with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Progressive Caucus. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinos) gave an overview of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform plan.  Other attending caucus members also spoke briefly. Rep. Honda (D-CA) spoke about how immigration issues did not just impact Hispanics, but also Asians and other ethnic groups.  All of the speakers were beyond passionate - they were on fire with this issue!  Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA)  and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) made clear their determination in passing this bill this year.  Rep. Velazquez said that they contact the White House every week concerning this issue.  

They also discussed the immigration reform forums that are being held in cities nationwide and the key points of the CHC Task Force.

Congressman Sablan spoke briefly about the background of the nonresidents in the CNMI and introduced me as a women who worked on this issue for twenty years. I later spoke briefly about the nonresidents in the CNMI.  The caucus members took notes on what the forum participates said.  Copies of all of the letters from the guest workers, nonresidents and their supporters were also given to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Members from labor, religious and advocacy groups from around the nation attended the forum. Although, I could not stay for the entire meeting because I had to catch my flight home, I was amazed at the energy and positive messages from all who spoke. The central message is that we must not attach isolated reform measures to bills that would address only one issue in a piece meal fashion. Rather, we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform that embraces all immigration issues including the DREAM Act, visa issues and even CNMI green cards for nonresidents. The focus was that we must pass one comprehensive immigration reform bill this year.

The president of the Farm Workers Union and other national immigration reform leaders spoke. There were calls for a march on Washington, DC, calls to mobilize the grassroots, and mention of the need to reach all of our individual members of Congress in our home states. Again everyone embraced the basic message that the bill must pass and this is the year!

Why is this significant for CNMI nonresidents? Because there is a CNMI delegate in Washington, DC who is very much respected by his colleagues, and he understands the significance of the plight of the nonresidents.  The introduction of Congressman Sablan by the leaders of the Hispanic Caucus, and the positive words about him made by the staffer when I called to discuss the invitation, indicate that he is a valued member of this powerful and respected caucus.  In every office I visited in Washington, DC it was noted that having Kilili is Washington is making a positive impact to the people who live and work in the CNMI.

I also witnessed at the oversight hearing which member of Congress had a narrow agenda, which was in the dark, which was supporting "friends", and which was trying to get to the bottom of all issues.  I would say that Congressman Sablan asked questions about a variety of issues and actually got the governor to admit he wants guest workers to REMAIN guest workers!   

Governor Fitial responded to two questions from Congressman Sablan that illustrated his true feelings for the guest workers. I will paraphrase from my notes. The governor was asked what are the human costs he referred to in his testimony.  Governor Fitial considers "human costs" (a phrase I used over the last three years in my speeches and reports in referring to guest workers) those CNMI immigration employees who did not qualify for federal immigration jobs. The Governor revealed that he is concerned with less than 100 people who will need to find a new job, but unconcerned about 16,000 to 18,000 guest workers and their U.S. citizen children.  I am not saying we should not care about those immigration employees who will lose their positions. It is difficult to be unemployed and I empathize with them.  But can you compare the two situations?  (We should also note, that when questioned Mr. Richard Barth, acting principal deputy assistant secretary for policy at DHS,  revealed that every effort was made to hire CNMI and Guam citizens for these positions. Over 500 applicants applied and Mr. Barth  testified that some while some were "no-shows", about 50 CNMI and Guam residents were likely candidates for positions. He said that some employees would be starting before the November 28, 2009 deadline.)

The second response to a question flat out shows Governor Fitial's stand. Congressman Sablan asked him about an April 21, 2009 letter that the congressman had sent to Governor Fitial. He told him he wanted a reply. In the letter he asked for figures on numbers of nonresidents apparently including guest workers, FAS citizens and spouses, CNMI permanent residents, etc. and his recommendation for their status.  (I will ask for a copy and print it on this site - my notes are limited.)  

Governor Fitial responded that he had served in the 3rd CNMI Legislature with Kilili and that he (the governor) had authored the first nonresident workers' act to develop the economy.  He continued saying, "There's a place for them", (them being the guest workers) and went on to say that they came as guest workers and should stay guest workers. He absolutely does not support status.  He did mention that if they married U.S. citizens then they should follow the "process" to become citizens.  He showed absolutely no appreciation of the guest workers, and no sympathy for their plight and the plight of their children.

In questioning Fitial at the hearing, Rep. Sablan gave him a chance to say,  "Yes, we want the guest workers to be part of our community and be granted a pathway to citizenship." The governor made it clear that he does not.  The governor said that the U.S. government was preventing their guest worker program to develop the economy.  I have said for the last two years that this Fitial Administration is fighting federalization to keep their dysfunctional guest worker program so that workers with remain indentured with no political and social rights. He proved that this is a fact.  

The phony concern for the guest workers and their families that this administration put forth in the documents submitted to the federal district court in their anti-federalization lawsuit are a slap in the face to the guest workers, and to their intelligence.  He does not care how much the guest workers have contributed to the CNMI, how deeply rooted they are in the community, how removal from the CNMI will impact their families, and he is unconcerned with the true human costs. He made it clear that the guest worker program is to be viewed as a system that pumps money into the CNMI economy.  If they were to get status they would have rights, they could leave for the states or Guam if they were not paid or treated well.  This is what he does not want. He want the foreign workers to remain disenfranchised and he views them as disposable, replaceable commodities, not as humans.

Another key point of the hearing is that the federal government officials stated that there is a budget to implement the law November 28, 2009.  Mr. Barth indicated that 53 customs agents, 17 ICE agents and a total of 87 federal employees had been hired already.  The federal government should be ready for the November 28, 2009 deadline.

About the Chinese and Russian visa waivers.  This was the main focus of the hearing perhaps because the committee chair is from Guam and this was obviously the main concern of Guam's witnesses at the hearing.  The point was that they want to build their tourism industry, and the CNMI also has concerns about losing tourist dollars.  

The federal officials who testified made several points as I understood them: 1. The federal administration can change the visa waivers without having to institute a delay in PL 110-229. Decisions about visa waivers are reviewed in an on-going manner.  2. The decision not to grant visa waivers was based on several factors including the fact that the Chinese and Russians applying for visas to the U.S. have a high refusal rate (indicating that those applying may present a security risk or do not qualify for visas).  Security risks are weighed with tourism dollars when making decisions about visa waivers. 3. They also stated that because Guam would be having a large military presence and the CNMI would most likely have a military training site, there was a risk there. Perhaps as a potential target or because of sensitive intelligence issues? 

As I said in the previous post, the biggest disappointment was the remark by DOI's  Nik Pula. This request for a delay to recommend status was truly unnecessary.  What happened to the CNMI labor and immigration system that they claim should serve as a model for the U.S.? They don't track who comes in and who leaves? They said that they do! If they did, then on any given day there would be records of how many foreign contract workers are currently present in the CNMI. The hospital has records of births. Do they note how many children are born to foreigners and how many to US citizens?

How hard would it be to register everyone? Start alphabetically calling people in to register. This is not 1,000,000 people, or 100,000, or 50,000, or 25,000 people! I could figure out how to get statistics on 16,000 to 18,000 people. A government agency can't?

Furthermore, DOI and DHS knew what statistics they had to work with and what they would have to do one year ago. GAO could assist in this. They need to stop making excuses. They still have time to get the information that they require.  They can get GAO to help, DHS to start a registration of nonresidents now, or hire a consultant to get it done. A delay for this reason is out of the question. 

We can expect that there will be more hearings on PL110-229, both in the Senate and in the House. The Sub-committee Chair, Madeleine Bordallo said that the committee members will be visiting the CNMI and Guam in August.  The nonresidents may want to start planning for this trip.  

To the nonresidents:  I will be communicating with you on strategies in the upcoming weeks. The best thing the guest workers can do at this time is to stay united and stay focused.  

Congratulations on the very successful three day vigil!

Rep. Gutierrez,m Rep. Grijalva, Rep. Michael Honda, ©W.L. Doromal 2009


Anonymous said...


OIA and DHS need to understand that the United States of America is in a very serious recession. Millions of US Citizens are out of work. They need jobs. Granting Green Cards and citizenship to thousands of guest workers will put a burden on an already fragile economy. We need to wait a few years longer for things to improve before taking on more jobless citizens that we cannot handle in our job market and welfare system. Americans need to fight back on this issue for our children and our future.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Jobless, burdensome? Do you know what you are talking about? Not all of us are jobless and we won't be jobless if we have an improved status! With this current state, (fragile economy as you said)the more you need people with brains like us because we can make a difference. We have been tested and proven to be resilient & survivor people.

"Americans need to fight back on..." FYI, our children are US Citizen too and they have the right to receive the benefits that all American gets. They are not different from other US Citizen children born from local parents. Actually, they are smarter.

There are still more to say but for now, it will be sufficient to answer your idiotic ranting!


Anonymous said...

The United States of America does not owe you citizenship or a job just because you have lived in the CNMI for more than five years.

Anonymous said...

Nor you have the right to deny it us. "Ask and you will be given, seek and you will find".

We are not asking the Chamorros to give it to us, instead we are asking the US Government for it.

Anonymous said...

The United States has every right to deny Citizenship.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are right! I can accept whatever is decided, as long as it comes from US govt.

Anonymous said...

CNMI Governor said:
1.) I'm Catholic Christian
2.) The Lt. Gov. is down, don't
kick him. (He admired his Vice)
3.) Guest workers should stay
guest workers
Okey, Governor we just pray what
you did to us. But remember, we
abide the law,

Anonymous said...

As was stated in the hearings, This is not the same issue as in the US mainland dealing with "Illegals'" this is an issue dealing with people that have come here "legally"
Big different. The NMI is fighting to keep these worker here and allow as many workers that are/will be needed through the next ten years or more.
Also stated in the hearings;The present few thousand workers that have been here for more than 5 years, if granted some kind of US status, most will stay and the ones that do go to the US mainland would not make much of a difference compared to the current "illegal".
They would go to areas that have jobs and be "absorbed" into the economy.(legally for better pay) otherwise why would they leave here.

Most that would leave would be going to Guam anyway for the buildup.This goes with the present workers that are here now. many are already processing work visa or are waiting for the start and have companies that will employ them one way or another in Guam.

So the people that want these workers gone will get their wish and the ones that want to keep these workers in "bondage" will be surprised.

Anonymous said...

As I am reading comments of ananymous writers, that no one can deny, everybody are waiting for the approve result of the hearing. We hope and pray long term guest workers will be given status either permanent or green card. That most guest workers have invested there lives half of their life here in CNMI.

Anonymous said...

Time to move on to Guam as an H-2 worker.

Guam is more of a "big city" than Saipan, sort of like moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

If you get an offer from a Guam company, take it! Don't wait around here in a dead-end job hoping and praying for "status" -- despite the advice floating around the streets of Saipan from "activists."

Anonymous said...

Or Cebu to Manila.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of Haoles who have invested decades of their lives here, too.

What do they have to show for it?

A better life than they would have had back home, or they would have left. No one promised anyone anything, including the right to own land.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to be selfish and racist when you are protected by your blue passports that were given to you by the US. Then you attack the US when they want to give others the same chance.

Anonymous said...

To above anon, you hit them right in the head. Those who doesn't like US intervention, strip off your US citizenship.

citizen kane said...

You've got it backwards. It's those who do like US intervention that ought to strip off their US citizenship, because they are trying to strip the CNMI people of theirs.

Citizenship is not the right to enjoy a privileged life of material affluence; it is the right to participate in the government.

Anonymous said...

citizen kane

No you have it wrong. The CNMI voted to become US citizens and no one is denying them that citizenship. To give the long-term guest workers citizenship is not to deny citizenship of the CNMI people.

Anonymous said...

That was not, however, the bargain the guest workers made when they came here.

And no one has answered the question, what about the next set of transition guest workers? Will they get green cards, too?

It these ones, admitted and screened by the U.S. government won't, why would the U.S. want to give special concessions to those admitted by the CNMI?

Anonymous said...

As stated at the hearing in DC, If this group gets any concessions, it will be for a one time only deal.
True the workers all came with the agreement to work and TRAIN the locals,then go home, but the political and business owners changed the playing field by keeping the wages low in the private sector and opened the flood gates,hired more contract workers without any contract renewal limits,while still raising the wages in the Govt sector so that the Gov workers could be controlled by the political and "connected"

The locals would not work in the private sector,because of the low wages so were not trained to take over the jobs that were held by the imported workers.
The "locals" were taught in the schools to work towards a "do nothing" Gov. job with immense benefits and retirement that was/is unprecedented in the "free world" along with the other "double dipping" schemes.
"Uncle will get you a job with the govt. after you graduate from school" (or not, graduate)

Since no training was ever done, the contract worker was kept at the bottom of the totem pole while the "fat cats" got fatter and the politico's where assured of their votes by using the high paying Govt jobs as bargaining tools.

Every Govt worker household had a house worker to raise their kids, and farm worker to take care of the farm and workers to catch the fish
In the early days the mother stayed at home to raise the kids, after everybody got "maids" the mothers started to join the father in the clubs and let the "maids raise the kids.

As few workers was sent back and the Feds kept warning about the guest worker to Local ratio that was leading to a disaster in the local economy.

So after these workers now and in the past have been exploited over the past 20+ yrs, I would think that anything that they may acquire from the Feds is deserved and maybe might level the playing field back into the favor of the "non connected" and common people.

citizen lane said...

Like I said, citizenship is the right to participate in government. The CNMI people are not participants in what is being done. Their citizenship is therefore being denied. Giving the guest workers citizenship without the agreement of the CNMI people, even over their objection, absolutely denies their citizenship.

Anonymous said...

It is for the U.S. Congress to decide who gets U.S. permanent residence or citizenship, just as Congress decided years ago to grant U.S. citizenship to the people of the NMI. If Congress decides to allow long-term guest workers to move to the rest of the U.S., why should a small group of U.S. citizens from the CNMI have the right to veto that? Just because the CNMI admitted them does not mean that the U.S. citizens of the CNMI own these workers forever.

Kleitz said...

Saipan Vigil of United Workers Movement in youtube

citizen wayne said...

Granting citizenship to guest workers would not just allow them to move to the US. It would also allow them to stay here, and immediately and permanently dominate the political landscape.

Zaldy Dandan had a good column about this in yesterday's Variety, where he claimed that even the feds are "reluctant to impose a radical and irreversible demographic change on the CNMI without the consent of their fellow US citizens -- the local people and their leaders."

Anonymous said...

If any real change is to come to the NMI,it maybe the time to have a different set of voters.
It will happen soon anyway as the US children are coming of age.
It happened years ago in Fiji,with their imported Indian workers.
I believe also Porto Rico,and the Virgin Islands and it has happened in Hawaii.
Hawaii is now like a small California with the US mainland forcing mainland standards.

Certain "families" and groups are scared.
The problem now in the is that the "connected" are losing control in the NMI and the Status Quo is being chipped away.
The hold on the contract workers, the control on the low wages in the private sector is fading.
The political arena and corruption is also changing.(Fed prosecution)
The people are "maybe" starting to see what has been going on through the years.
Problem is that there is still the recycled trash in the political arena.
There is a need for better products to be recycled.
Until the younger educated generation will return or outsiders get into political office and Govt agencies things won't change.

Anonymous said...

Citizen Wayne:

Saipan can have a good political leader. Tina Sablan for one may be a good political leader. Don't be too insecure on thinking that the aliens will dominate this island.

Anonymous said...

The problem is Tina age, she can not run for Gov or Lt.
Not a problem with her in her capacity in trying to do her elected job. Hopefully she is setting an example for the other younger educated people.
We need many more like her to be involved, and get involved.
Hopefully after the elections there will be a few more to help and make a difference in the Govt.

citizen paine said...

"If any real change is to come to the NMI,it maybe the time to have a different set of voters."

Wow. So if the people we've got refuse to change their way of doing things, then the solution is to get different people? That has got to be the most fantastic feat of standing democratic political theory on its head that I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Elect good senators not "senatongs"
Elect good congressmen not "tongressmen"
Elect good Christian governor not
"Chris Tan" governor.

Anonymous said...

very amusing! some more!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cohen you see, first night
of the "TASTE OF MARIANAS" if no
Guest Workers, The "MARIANAS"
The Gov. don't like Federalization
and Salary increase...Check also
at the Airport Cargo Saipan, How
much per/hr. Mr. Chris Tan and
Ben Tan profit.

They don't like the FED'S...

"Guest Workers stay as Guest Workers" Gov. said...

Also 180 days plus 365 days delay how much profit they have... ONLY AIRPORT...

How about...SEA and LAND...

That's WHY Gov. wants delay...

Mr. President did you Hear "US"
We don't have money to talk personally with your Secretaries
not like Mr. BenTan...

What we can do, just prayer and ask what is good for "US"

HOPE Mr. President OBAMA, B.


Before CNMI pay 11 million USD for lobbyist

Now Bargain... goes down to 400,00 USD... WHY ... So, "NO MORE DELAY"